The ‘advice’ given out by Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin, a former journalist himself, on the eve of Eid (Malaysiakini, 12 October) to local media editors – that truth must not reach the Prime Minister – was not only outrageous. It also shows that the minister is really out of sync with the true value of journalism. He doesn’t know what truth is or what justice means.
In case the minister has forgotten, journalists are supposed to have a commitment to and a burning passion for truth and justice. They are expected to tell truth to power without fear or favour. Hasn’t he heard of the saying, “Tell the truth and shame the devil!”
It is crucial that the real feelings of the ordinary people be made known to the political leadership through the media because such feedback is vital for better governance and accountability. Otherwise, we would have a political leadership that is enthralled with a syok sendiri syndrome – far removed from reality and totally out of touch with the sentiments of the people. Living in a make-believe world would not benefit the country; neither would it force the leadership to tackle the pressing issues of the day. In fact, living in a cocoon could jeopardise the political and economic well-being of the country
Socially responsible media must tell the truth. They must be readily accessible to the ordinary rakyat so that their views, anxieties and problems can be aired and eventually reach the political leadership for urgent attention and action. Blocking such a channel would expose the utter hypocrisy of the press and only widen the credibility gap of the political leadership.
It doesn’t take a journalist, much less a jaded one, to understand this simple fact of life: truth, no matter how painful it is, will have to be told to the people who are in a position to do something about it, to the people who are responsible for it, to those in power. Surely, any decent journalist would understand this simple truth!
Dr Mustafa K Anuar & Anil Netto
Coordinators, Charter 2000-Aliran
15 October 2007