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Comments to a journalist

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The best and most effective way to encourage the people to be more responsible when using social media would be for the Najib regime to loosen its grip on the mainstream media, asserts Zaharom Nain.

Photo credits: uppercaise
Photo credits: uppercaise

I recently received a call – and, soon after, an email – from a persistent Malaysian newspaper journalist out to get responses to PM Najib Abdul Razak’s latest attempt at coming across as a rights-motivated liberal.

His announcement, that is, that there would be no (further) censorship of the Internet by his regime, but that we need to be more “responsible” instead in using the new media.

I informed her that I no longer gave interviews to her newspaper because the last time I did, my views were deliberately distorted. And that the pathetic reporter at that time didn’t have the decency to apologise afterwards.

She countered by saying that she’d do an email interview, so that my words would be ‘written’ and hence could not be distorted.

I know, of course, that it is never as simple as that and that devious reporters, subs and editors could easily paraphrase quotations to give quite different meanings. And, of course, they’ve done so.

But since she was polite and persistent, and only posed one general question, namely: “What steps would you suggest to encourage people to be more responsible when posting their comments on social media?”, I thought, let’s give it a go, and crafted out the following response.

In the first place, I wrote, it’s really a bit rich for Ah Jib Gor (I guess he doesn’t use that moniker any more, after blaming the Chinese Malaysian community for the BN’s dismal performance in GE13) to talk about ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘responsibility’.

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After all, throughout the period of his regime, he and his henchmen (and women) have been attacking such freedoms and have been totally irresponsible themselves.

You don’t have to look far, of course, for evidence – the Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia, which continues to publish lies, has never really been condemned by its owners.

Also, the performance of all four of the Umno-controlled free-to-air commercial TV stations and its newspapers, including the NST (and also The Star which I know is not in the Media Prima stable but, by and large, is still a BN poodle) before, during the elections and even now, is not something any proponent of responsible and free media/speech would applaud.

Condemn, yes, applaud, never.

And, we must also remember, I continued, this is the same character, this PM of yours, who chose a racist and a bigot to run for parliament in Shah Alam, and conveniently allowed another to try to sneak in via Pasir Emas in Kelantan.

Now, it is this context, of course, that is important for us to keep in mind when looking at this statement about freedom and responsibility from Jibby. I could, of course, go on and discuss the assaults by his agencies (the Registrar of Companies (ROC) and the Registrar of Societies (ROS), for example) on Suaram and the unfair attacks by the mainstream media on other NGOs and web news portals, like Malaysiakini, but I think you get my drift.

Look at three things

In other words, before Jibby or any of his lackeys and media apparatchiks start talking about ‘responsible’ social media, they ought to look at three things at least.

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First, the (ongoing) ‘irresponsibility’ of the Malaysian mainstream media that has led to this situation in the first place.

Second, the irresponsibility of pro-Umno cybertroopers and bloggers (remember Papagomo?) who have never really been admonished, let alone genuinely penalised, by their paymasters.

Third, what do they really mean by ‘irresponsible’? Would spreading lies and more lies about the opposition be seen as responsible, while criticising the regime would be regarded as irresponsible?

Looking at the way the authorities have clamped down in ‘chosen’ areas and not in others seems to suggest so. It is the double standards, the hypocrisy, that is so galling, so effing annoying and insulting to the intelligence of many Malaysians.

And then these same jokers talk about ‘responsibility’ and ‘freedom’?

At any rate, to end on a more conciliatory(!) note, I suggested that it’s nice to know that this PM for some Malaysians has got proposals for us all.

Now, as for suggestions “to encourage people to be more responsible when posting their comments on social media”, I would say that the best and most effective way to encourage this would be for the regime (led by Jibby who’s the one talking about being ‘responsible’) to loosen its grip on the mainstream media, and allow it to try to regain some of its much-destroyed credibility.

And, in so doing, allow the Malaysian population, after almost four decades of seeing the mainstream media being levelled down to becoming nothing more than BN propaganda apparatuses, to experience a vibrant, critical and, indeed, creative and responsible, media environment.

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The regime must understand the reasons for the anger, the irresponsibility. It’s a consequence of so many years of increasing control. And even more control at this juncture will simply not work.

I then concluded my comments with the following dare: “Okay, let’s see your paper publish that without distorting anything. Actually, my request is, if your paper is planning to distort this, please don’t use it at all. It’s happened before and I’m just giving you, as a relatively junior journalist, the benefit of some doubt.”

Needless to say, her paper didn’t publish my comments.

This piece first appeared in Malaysiakini.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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