Every few years, we can’t help but notice that substantive discussions on matters of real public interest appear to be sorely lacking in the mainstream media. Instead, there is a strong tabloid slant which resembles a certain paper in the United Kingdom, observes Yeoh Seng Guan.
Last year (6 February 2010), I had penned some thoughts about the conjunction of two events that had dominated local media news. Then it was about the sacking of England football captain John Terry for his extra-marital misdemeanours with the ex-girlfriend of his team-mate and the beginning of the ‘Sodomy 2’ trial of former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim.
More than one year down the line, much seems to have changed for some and yet remained the same for others. John Terry was recently re-instated as captain ahead of an important European Championship match. Fabio Capello, the England manager, was reported to have said that Terry had suffered enough for his indiscretion, and it was time to move on. The team needed to be stabilised for more important matters. Even when he was not officially wearing the captain’s armband, Terry was observed to be consistently inspirational on the football pitch when representing his country the past year.
By contrast, Anwar Ibrahim’s situation as a playmaker in the Malaysian game of politics has appeared to have suffered yet another fierce tackle. By now, probably most Malaysians would have heard or read about the secretly taped ‘sex video’ of a man having sexual intercourse with a woman in a semi-dark room. The woman, who is significantly described as looking like an East Asian and presumed to be a prostitute, escapes any attention. Instead, it is the man – who is supposed to look like, yes, you guessed it – who has to fend for himself. To further thicken the plot, one of the three persons who brought the video to light is supposedly doing this for the sake of public interest. No matter that this individual has a record of indiscretion himself once exposed by…yes, you guessed it again.
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One of my professors from overseas was quite puzzled by the recent train of events and the seemingly unchanging nature of Malaysian politics. Every few years when he visits Malaysia, he can’t help but notice that substantive discussions on matters of real public interest appear to be sorely lacking in the mainstream media. Instead, there is a strong tabloid slant which resembles a certain paper in the United Kingdom featuring lots of celebrity gossip, semi-nude women and sports. He observed, “why is it that I feel that there is no real change between what I read in the newspapers in 1998 and now?” Perhaps that is true.
Perhaps it is also equally true that because of the possibility of real change being ushered in as witnessed in the “political tsunami” of 2008, we are witnessing the “business-as-usual” mode of operation being recycled again and again. Malaysia and the world await yet again!
Yeoh Seng Guan is an Aliran executive committee member