Those supposedly present, Datuk Ibrahim Ali and Tan Sri
Rahim Thamby Chik, could not recall such a meeting taking place.
The Straits Times quoted a Malaysian official as saying the purported leaked
document was based on a transcript which
had been posted for more than a month on one of the reformasi websites.
Quoting from the document, the Business
Times report also said the circulation
of a national Bahasa Malaysia daily had plunged, a falsehood perpetuaed by certain quarters.
The fact is that almost all national newspapers recorded an increase in their
sales since September, as verified by an independent audit body.
There are many such documents and
letters, purportedly official, in the
“disinformation campaign'' against the
Foreign reporters, who do not verify
their stories either due to complacency
or sloppiness, are likely to fall prey
to such lies.
Those familiar with Malaysian politics
will tell you political discussions, of all level of politicians, take place almost nightly.
These unofficial chit-chats are never
minuted, let alone put in formal reports. Often, there is no follow-up to matters
Our politicians often do not refute such inaccurate news reports, preferring to dismiss them.
But the danger of such an approach is that without a denial, these news items can sometimes be accepted as true.
It will be better for the leaders to put
their foot down and insist on a
clarification or ask for their stand to
Last week, some foreign media took a
hostile reaction towards the changes in
Some implied that the changes are a
sinister ploy to strengthen the Prime
There's nothing unusual about the
changes. No sane leader would appoint
rivals to key positions. It's really
stating the obvious.
It is normal to reward loyalists,
whether in business or in politics.
There have been suggestions that
Malaysia should consider imposing circulation curbs on the foreign press to
counter negative reporting.
The administration cannot be blamed if
it suspects the foreign press of having
a hidden agenda.
For the past 18 months, foreign reports
have been carrying quotes and comments
from the same government critics.
The views of these academicians and
leaders of non-governmental
organisations are taken as gospel
Their motives and how representative their views were had never been questioned.
But we should not just blame the Western
reporters with their dial a-quote methods and predictions of riots and a collapse of the Malaysian
Even some Malaysian newsmen working for
these foreign news agencies sometimes go
overboard in running down their own
A human rights activist, unheard of
until a few months ago, has been
upgraded to be “a leading opposition dissident'' and a politician with a record of being rejected in every election has been labelled as an opposition leader.
Neither do these reporters point out
that in multi-religious and multi-racial
Malaysia, the political inclination can
be very segmented.
The views of people in Kepong, Gua
Musang and Sentul can be very
The foreign media, for example, must
find out why the majority of Malaysians
are against demonstrations.
Despite criticism of the Government being authoritarian, has the foreign media admitted that Harakah and
Rocket are sold openly although the rule insist that these publications are only for members.
Surely, a harsh government will not
tolerate such abuses. In fact, no
officials from these parties have been
hurled to court.
There is this feeling now that to make
them more accountable and accurate in
their reporting, the international media must bear the financial and legal
implications of their reports.
At the same time, our ministers and
officials must learn to make themselves
readily available to put their views
It might not be a good idea to curb the
flow of information as the same versions
of these publications also appear on the Internet.
What our leaders need to do is to insist
their side of the story is published, in
the form of letters to the editors, if
they feel the need to correct a false report.
The National Economic Advisory Council,
for example, has taken the right step by
setting up a media team to monitor print
The team, which includes former
journalists, has made it a point to
clarify inaccurate reports.
We must accept that there will always be
a cacophony of media voices. We cannot
shut off all these contradictory views
but we can insist the official views be carried
False reporting by the foreign media has
led to people overseas forming wrong
conclusions about Malaysia, as in the
case of US Vice-President Al Gore.
It has also affected the economy. Fewer
tourists are visiting the country.
Reformasi taxi drivers who bad mouth the country to their passengers ought to
understand the consequences of shooting themselves in the foot.
The Government must deal with
contradicting views intelligently,
with hard facts and convincing arguments.
Our ambassadors, for example, must
cultivate the friendship and support of
newsmen in their countries.
Even prejudiced foreign newsmen can change and be more impartial in their
reporting if they understand the
background of a particular
Rhetorics from opposition politicians and NGOs may be appealing but in the end, the voice of reason will prevail.
Moderate Malaysians, who form the
majority, appreciate the need for
compromise in a multi-racial and multi-religious country.
Democratic rights certainly need to be expanded in Malaysia. Even our local
media must admit its weaknesses and take
a serious look at itself to improve its image.
We must realise political and economic stability will always be our
If the foreign press is truthful, then they must admit that the country,
Government and economy have remained intact.
As we visit our Muslim friends during the traditional Hari Raya open house this week, we must not forget that
racial harmony still prevails.
There have been no massive retrenchments, no sharp hikes in the prices of food items but an improved stock
market as we go through the
All these are not too bad for a country which has been written off by the critics.
Only if we can see all this will we realise that there is mala fide, or bad faith, on the part of the foreign press
in its reporting of Malaysia.