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Bemused by criticism of Malaysiakini

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Aliran is bemused again. Last week, the focus of attacks was on Suaram. This week, they have turned their attention to Malaysiakini.

In our statement in response last week, we mentioned how foreign interests are affecting the minds and lives of Malaysians, virtually on an everyday basis. We made references to the influence of the English Premier League, BBC and CNN telecasts into millions of households in the region.

More seriously we highlighted how we measure economic growth in terms of, among others, the quantum of FDI. Why, we even want to draw in foreign investors that may be environmentally harmful e.g. Lynas’ rare earth refinery, RAPID in Pengerang, Johor and aluminium smelters in Sarawak!

We also highlighted US support for military exercises involving the Malaysian military via the Office of Defence Cooperation in support of the US Embassy in Malaysia and the US Pacific Command. (We should have also mentioned the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition, now in its 12th edition.)

None of the critics of Suaram bothered to respond to these points. Neither did they show us HOW Suaram is undermining democracy by receiving foreign funds.

Now we are told that it is not proper for foreigners to hold directorships or other stakes in local media outfits!

But then, we note that a leading “integrated consumer media entertainment group in Malaysia and Southeast Asia with operations in four key areas of business, namely Pay-TV, Radio, Publications and Digital Media” has a non-independent, non-executive director who appears to be a foreigner.

If we are talking about moulding public opinion, why only talk about the media? Why not talk about foreign public relations groups and spin doctors such as Apco which are in the business of shaping public opinion to promote certain leaders and political parties as paragons of virtue especially as elections approach? Is this not trying to influence public perception falsely as certain quarters are now accusing Malaysiakini of?

Since we are talking about moulding minds, what about education? We now have foreign universities invited to establish branch campuses in Malaysia. Often the curriculum is adapted from abroad and taught by foreign lecturers – and my, my, in the English Language too!

Then there are the international schools in Malaysia. Quotas or restrictions on Malaysians attending such schools have now been relaxed. Increasingly, these schools now have free access in shaping young and impressionable local minds – an exposure which could be equally dangerous!

If we want to stretch this ridiculous argument, what about the tens of thousands of Malaysian youths who have been sent abroad by the government and their parents to further their studies in Europe, America, South and East Asia, and the Middle East? Wouldn’t they too have imbibed foreign values and ideologies?

Much ado has also been made about an opposition politician’s small stake in Malaysiakini as if that would affect its editorial independence. In that case, what about Umno’s ownership of Utusan and MCA’s ownership of The Star, Nanyang and China Press? Doesn’t that compromise their independence? Doesn’t that have an even greater impact in undermining media independence?

Instead of making vague insinuations and innuendos, critics of Malaysiakini should give us clear examples of how the foreign presence on its board or foreign funding has resulted in a diabolical foreign agenda creeping into Malaysiakini’s reporting that threatens to undermine democracy.

By the way, Aliran does not receive any foreign funding for any ongoing programmes nor do we have a foreigner sitting on our board of directors. Why, we don’t even have a board of directors! But we won’t make any insinuations against others just because they might have a foreigner on their board. After all, we live in an era of globalisation.

Aliran executive committee
29 September 2012

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