On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Love-hate affairs with the news-makers

“Suddenly the phone stops ringing. My name no longer appears in  the newspapers, no one seeks my  opinions and, most of all, no one  thrusts the mike and tape recorder to my face now,'' he lamented.

But the media have always been the punching bag of the influential.

When pushed into a corner, blundering politicians often find it easy to shift the blame to the  press.It seems that to accuse the press  of misreporting or misquoting has become a favourite excuse when all else fails.

Recently, one politician blamed  the press for losing a by-election.  Next, he denied having said money was “missing'' from a fund,  claiming he did not even know  what the word lesap, attributed to  him, meant.

Last week, another politician  blamed the foreign media for misquoting him, apparently because he had a poor command of English.

The press was again held responsible for not giving enough publicity to Sukom 98. The media is usually reluctant to reply to such accusations or denials simply because it does not  wish to prolong the issue and see a  strain in ties with the politicians.

In March, one newspaper, however, decided to publish the full transcript of a press conference  given by a minister after his denial on toll-free alternative routes. Another politician, who had once denied a press report, told a  reporter: “I said it but I didn't  mean it'' after being confronted  with a tape recording of his remarks.One opposition politician, who is  in the habit of burning newspapers during elections, slams the  media at every opportunity but  that has not stopped him from  sending press statements to the  newsrooms of the various newspapers almost every day and most  of the statements get printed!

When his statement is not carried because of poor or libellous  content, the press gets blamed for blacking him out.

One reporter may get it wrong  but when all newspapers have the  same report, it is highly unlikely  everyone is wrong. After all, reporters today are armed with tape recorders.

But that does not mean that the  press is always right and free  from blame. Misreporting and irresponsible reporting can be damaging.

A media organisation, especially the electronic sector, in the hands  of young and inexperienced editors may suffer serious consequences.

For example, several months  ago an alleged road bully was  brought to the court by the police for a remand order. The case was given prominent  press coverage. His face appeared on television and in some newspapers without being camouflaged.In fact, he was never charged.Similarly, it was unethical to  show on news broadcasts the identities of minors alleged to be drug  pushers when they are mere suspects.This is because if there is  no case against them the damage  would have been done to them.In all healthy relationships,  there must be lots of love and understanding. I guess it's the same with the  media and the news-makers.