On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

React positively to criticism

In Bahasa Malaysia, it would be best described as melenting or making a remark without much thought to its consequences. 

It could be the pressure and stress of his work, with the ongoing Visit Malaysia 2007, because those of us who know Tengku Adnan can vouch that he is certainly one of the most humble and approachable ministers. 

The Federal Territory politician, who is also known for his openness and press savvy, is certainly the best person to promote Malaysia.  

The recent controversy started when Tengku Adnan was asked to respond to a complaint by Indonesian journalist-blogger Nila Tanzil on not being able to shoot and film at various places when she was here for the Flora Fest 2007. 

This writer had commented on her grouses after having read her blog (nilatanzil.blog spot.com), which had made its rounds within the Jakarta press fraternity. In short, the bad publicity wasn’t good for Malaysia. 

Her main complaint was that she was told by an official that the Malaysia Tourism Board would need two weeks to fulfil her request for accreditation letters. 

She said her guide, probably not trained to handle the press, did not even allow her to film at Chinatown.  

It was a case of one unhappy journalist. After all, Tourism Malaysia invited over 6,000 media journalists and travel agents for its many programmes and we can assume that the majority were satisfied with how things were handled.  

As I had written earlier, Nila’s case could just be an isolated case but because she had blogged about it and had reached a wide audience, Tourism Malaysia should investigate the matter instead of ignoring it. 

But instead of confining the problem and solving it, we have created a bigger hole by allegedly accusing bloggers of being liars and that the majority of bloggers are purportedly unemployed women.  

Tengku Adnan’s comments were reported by Sin Chew Daily and the minister has claimed he was misquoted. Sin Chew has not retracted or apologised for its report, so we can assume the daily is sticking to its report. 

Naturally, the remark angered many bloggers, both men and women, who protested strongly.  

This time, the uproar was reported in several newspapers overseas. It was another case of another Malaysian politician shooting himself in the foot, which all seem so familiar by now. 

Last week, Tengku Adnan tried to diffuse the controversy by clarifying that he did not mean all bloggers but was referring to the Indonesian journalist. 

It’s not a very clever thing to do. It’s hardly good public relations to call someone a liar in public. Tourism Malaysia may have its reasons for running its media programme but as with any operational manner, it should just quickly defend itself with its side of the story to the press when criticised. 

This issue first surfaced on Feb 26 but it took more than 10 days before we heard anything from the ministry.  

Still, we are grateful that director-general Datuk Mirza Mohamad has replied although some of the issues remain unanswered. 

There is absolutely no need for anyone to be defensive or upset over Nila’s complaint. No one is suggesting that the ministry or Tourism Malaysia is not doing their job but all complaints should be taken seriously, more so if they are from the media. 

There is also nothing wrong in making an apology to the said reporter, who continued to promote Malaysia strongly in her programme despite her unhappiness. In planning and implementation, mistakes can be made. Just rectify the mistakes and move on, it’s that simple. 

If guides accompanying the press need to be better trained to meet their job demands, then train them better. 

There is no need to take criticisms badly. Some of our politicians or bureaucrats seem incapable of handling such brickbats, preferring to hear things that they want to hear only. Instead of addressing the issues concerned, some have reacted negatively and with intolerance. 

To suggest that bloggers have an anti-national agenda simply implies that some of us are still not logged into blogsphere.  

Some have yet to see the importance of the New Media, assuming that bloggers are all political commentators, without understanding that many travel writers have embraced the new medium for their writing. 

From food reviewers to motoring journalists, many have chosen blogging to gain a bigger audience to complement the print and electronic media that they work in. 

It’s a new world but it is still not too late for some of our politicians and bureaucrats to check out blogsphere.