On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

We can only turn the other cheek

The tabloid, known for its sensationalism, had used this
headline in reference to Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Sabbaruddin

“Malaysian minister unrepentent even after Singapore points out fact,'' the
sub-head elaborated.

The newspaper had carried a full-page story on Sabbaruddin's statement that the
peninsula had been left out from the tour list for Rotary Club members.

Malaysians have reason to cry foul over the treatment of Malaysian news by the
Singapore media of late.

For reasons best known only to the government-controlled Singapore media,
reports on Malaysia have been consistently negative.

It's hard to dismiss these slants as isolated cases, let alone good

Despite the open expressions of unhappiness by Malaysian leaders, the Singapore
media has chosen to continue its negative approach.

It's not that Malaysians are paranoid or sensitive. Neither is it because
Malaysian leaders have urged the local media to respond.

After all, it's the Malaysian media which has pointed out such negative reports
in the first place.

On Friday, the republic's Straits Times carried an article with the headline
“Media braces itself for KL's crackdown.''

The news item was about the resignation of Utusan Malaysia's editor-in-chief
Datuk Johan Jaaffar.

Admittedly, Johan's resignation has created a stir but it is certainly
preposterous to imagine Special Branch officers walking into editorial offices
demanding editors to step down.

In press jargon, the news item should best be spiked. The news item, filed by a
foreign news agency, had carried a statement from the New York-based Committee
to Protect Journalists.

The group had expressed fear that the resignation of Johan “after conflicts
with the Malaysian leadership may herald a press crackdown.''

There is, of course, no likelihood of such a crackdown. Editors, like all
employees, come and go.

Malaysian journalists, criticised for being docile, have suddenly become
critical and offensive overnight. Which is which?

We should also not ignore other aspects, besides journalism, in analysing the

On the same day, the Singapore newspaper ran a story on the Commonwealth Games
titled “Computer woes top list 
Pre-games trials expose problems.''

Again, rather than rely on its KL-based correspondents, who should know the
situation better, the paper used a news agency report.

Such reports are a sequel to the numerous negative reporting since the opening
of the KL International Airport last month.

The Straits Times carried a full-page report on an e-mail sent by a reader
mocking the KLIA and drawing comparisons with Changi airport.

The reader, which sent a critical hour-by-hour observation of KLIA, ran down
Malaysia Airlines but praised the SIA counter.

We cannot deny that the opening of the airport had its share of flaws,
particularly the computer glitches, but let's not use the sledgehammer

Malaysians, in particular, ought to realise that if they go overboard in their
criticism, we will end up becoming the biggest losers in the long-run.

Granted the stiff competition in the region, especially with Changi airport.
But let's not shoot ourselves in the foot, for it will be very difficult to
repair the damage.

Now that the KLIA is functioning well, the Singapore and other foreign media
which took delight in running it down should send their reporters to check if
they practise the principles of fair reporting.

Malaysians who have questioned the authorities over the foul-up on the first
day of KLIA's operations should also question why the foreign media has been
peculiarly silent now.

Or does it take a few rats scurrying around the KLIA for Malaysia to make it
into the pages of the foreign media?

We can expect more negative reporting from Singapore. One issue likely to crop
up will be the use of facilities at the Singapore port as Malaysia draws up
legislation to make it compulsory for cargo handlers to use the services of
local ports, particularly Port Klang.

A lot of money is involved. Over RM164bil worth of goods were sent by Malaysian
exporters through Singapore.

Not surprisingly, stories on Port Klang have been given prominence, including a
July 14 report headlined “Take back what's been stolen: Use Port

Interestingly, the Malaysian media chose to play down the report of two
students who contracted malaria at a Singapore resort. More than 185 cases of
malaria have been identified this year.

This is in contrast to the near-hysteria treatment by the Singapore media over
a bus accident at a hill resort in Malaysia a few years back.

There is only one way for Sabbaruddin Chik to handle such adverse reports  turn the other cheek on them.