Interestingly, while Anwar and his supporters have all questioned the fairness of the local media, the other side has hit out at the foreign media for their sensational reporting and for
jumping to conclusions and inaccurate
Objectivity, unfortunately, has become a
thin line. It depends on which side you
are on as sentiments become more polarised. For
some, fair reporting means whether these stories are favourable to them.
It also depends on their political
orientation. On one hand, those who
are anti-establishment say the police over-reacted when dealing with the protestors.
On the other, the conservatives think
the protestors have organised far too
many illegal gatherings and criticise
the police for being too slow in
enforcing the law.
According to their arguments, those who
talk about upholding the principles of
the law are not qualified to talk about it if they break the law.
Then, there are those who are angry at commentaries they do not agree with.
They include those who preach the
freedom of expression but seem to put
aside such a liberal stance when it does
not suit them.
It's toughest on the political writers, including foreign ones they
risk losing their contacts, friendships and, in some cases, even
their jobs, should they offend
certain powerful figures.
Political writers, who don't aspire to be spin doctors, will tell their listeners that many things are not what they seem on the surface.
Rightly or wrongly, to this cynical lot, politics is about power and patronage. To them, what politicians preach
is mere sales talk.
Some even liken politics to selling hopes and nothing more than that. There is no guarantee it will be delivered.
It's a difficult job because the political writer needs to have a wide grasp of political, social and economic
events, past and present, and strong
contacts with politicians and analysts
to allow him to draw the distinction
between facts and half truths.
More than that, he has to be careful of the danger of being swayed by over-friendly politicians and being used.
There is also this constant vigil
against being naive the worst sin of all, says a veteran political
There is a certain resentment by members
of the local media against their foreign
counterparts because they believe that
the foreigners, who have just arrived,
may not understand the twists and turns of local politics.
To justify their stay here, some foreign
reporters have resorted to highly
After all, Malaysia is unlikely to be a
top news item unless the story is
attention grabbing enough.
As a political battle is being fought, a
responsible media will have to reduce
the drama, check out the facts, cut out
mere allegations and spot exaggerations.
This sober approach that takes into
account the laws of libel and slander,
however, can result in reports which are often
scorned at for being too overly
cautious or docile.
Any experienced reporter will know that
when one covers a riot, you stand behind
the police line.
For greater drama in their stories, some may decide to join the demonstrators, running the risk of getting hit by tear gas.
Perhaps that's what they hope for
because then they can say they suffered for their craft and are able
to write a gripping reporting-from
the-scene-of-mayhem-and-mace account, like that “eye-witness'' report in
Singapore's New Paper. It must all seem
In a similar vein, the foreign media glamorised the Indonesian uprising,
describing the mob as “the
dispossessed''. To the victims
though, the mob was made up of
looters, rapists and thieves.
They also described the Tiannamen Square incident as a massacre. But to many people, including those in China, it was necessary action taken
by the government to stop the unrest in
the interest of the majority of the one
Russia's former president Mikhail Gorbachev was a hero to the West but a pariah at home. He brought democracy to Russia but turned it into a beggar state.
What the “truth'' is depends on which
side you are on and what you choose to
For the foreign media, events are looked
at from their perspective. What is right
to them may not necessarily be right to us.
Therein lies the challenge to and
concern of real journalists, whatever their origin balancing things out for their readers and viewers.
The task gets more difficult as
political temperatures rise but, as
they say, somebody has to do it.