Remember that time when Malaysians stayed up til the morning to wait for the GE14 results?! If ugaiz were watching Astro Awani, you would remember a political analyst named Karim Raslan who slammed the Election Commission for delaying the announcement of the results.
Besides Karim Raslan’s comment about the EC on Awani, we can see a shift in the way the mainstream media works after GE14. In case you didn’t know, most mainstream media are owned by the gomen (like RTM) or gomen-linked companies (GLCs). For instance, Utusan Malaysia and The Star are widely known to be owned by UMNO and MCA respectively, both are major components of the then ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional while Astro is partially owned by GLCs like Khazanah.
So, of course it is a big deal when these media change the way they work, especially when they publish or air unexpected things that they couldn’t before. We managed to compile 5 things you wouldn’t expect Malaysian mainstream media would publish today, starting with…
1. The MACC Chief Commissioner’s harrowing experience in investigating 1MDB
During the reign of the previous government, anybody who tried to investigate 1MDB and its former subsidiary, SRC International Sdn Bhd would either be banned like the Sarawak Report (cos Clare did an investigative write up on 1MDB) or sacked like Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin when the cabinet reshuffled in 2015.
Due to allegations of corruption, the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) had been investigating it, but during the process the former MACC deputy, Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull, retired in 2016 under suspicious circumstances. After GE14, Mohd Shukri took the place of MACC Chief Commissioner, and he revealed his life-threatening experience while investigating 1MDB and SRC International. The interview was published in… you guessed it, The Star.
Screengrab from The Star
In the transcript, he shared how he was threatened with sacking and was forced to take an early retirement. Upon receiving information that he was going to be arrested, he ran away to Washington and left a fake trail leading to Saudi Arabia. But even so, he was still followed in Washington.
“In fact, I nearly died because of this case and that’s why I’m afraid to return.” – Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull in a special media conference
Before he decided to retire from MACC in 2016, he and Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed (previous MACC head commissioner) tried to convince several ministers that the graft scandals were real but only a few ministers were brave enough to speak about it. One of them was Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, and ugaiz can guess what happened to him lah after that.
This revelation could not have been published today had it not been for the change in government. Speaking of revelations…
2. An exclusive, front page interview with Sarawak Report’s editor by The Star
In case you don’t recognise the person in the pic above, that’s Clare Rewcastle Brown, the founder and editor of Sarawak Report. It’s an online news portal, perhaps most known for exposing cases of corruption in Malaysia (like the 1MBD scandal) through investigative journalism. So, it’s no surprise to know that the website got banned by the previous gomen.
Before GE14, The Star would only highlight Sarawak Report as being not credible. Datuk Salleh Said Keruak, then Communications and Multimedia Minister claimed that any allegations made by Clare in the Sarawak Report were not backed by real evidence and if she did present evidence, they have been tampered with.
Other than Sarawak Report’s credibility, The Star had also covered a story where PAS president, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang filed a defamation suit against Clare in a London court. Apparently, Sarawak Report suggested that he received a bribe from the gomen.
However, ICYMI, the ban by the previous gomen against Sarawak Report, Asia Sentinel and Medium had recently been lifted. This brought Clare back to Malaysia.
What’s more shocking is the fact that The Star (which used to only report Sarawak Report negatively) conducted an exclusive interview with Clare and featured her on the front page of the paper! The write up was also accompanied by this interview video;
But these kinds of news aren’t limited to articles…
3. Harapan’s Himpunan Merdeka Rakyat was aired on TV3
Who would’ve thought that Pakatan Harapan’s gathering to celebrate the release of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from prison would be aired on Buletin Utama TV3 (aka Buletin TV3)?
For those not familiar with the segment, Buletin TV3 had been accused of being the BN government’s mouthpiece through several incidents in the past, like linking Anwar Ibrahim to the Filipino intrusion in Lahad Datu, portraying supporters of the Opposition as dangerous and disruptive, and trying to fake the results of GE13.
However, this changed after Harapan’s win in GE14. When Anwar Ibrahim was given a full royal pardon, a gathering was organised at Padang Timur, Petaling Jaya to celebrate his release from prison. And guess what? Buletin TV3 portrayed the gathering as a celebration instead of the usual dangerous and disruptive ‘illegal rally’:
But there wasn’t just instances of the media speaking up against the previous government…
4. Several news outlets criticised Tun M when he took the role of Education Minister
After becoming Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir had decided to take on the role of Education Minister as well.
“I took over the education portfolio because I think so many people are uneducated in this country,” – Tun M told The Star, tongue-in-cheek.
A shift in the mainstream media could be seen when news outlets like News Straits Times (NST) criticised Tun Mahathir’s decision as it was against Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto.
Screengrab from NST
Apparently, under the section labelled ‘Promise 12: Limit the Prime Minister’s term of office and restructure the Prime Minister’s Department‘ , Harapan’s manifesto stated that,
“The Prime Minister will not simultaneously hold other ministerial posts, especially the post of Minister of Finance.”
In the article, NST pointed out how Harapan leaders did not object to Tun Mahathir’s decision besides quoting a few members of Harapan mentioning how they would wait to discuss this issue in their next meeting. But NST wasn’t the only one to criticise Tun Mahathir.
Utusan Online highlighted the concern of an Exco of Pemuda PAS Malaysia, Nurul Islam Mohamed Yusoff, about Tun Mahathir not being able to keep his promise to separate the role of a Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. This concern surfaced because Lim Guan Eng’s role as Finance Minister wasn’t official then.
The Star, on the other hand, covered the news from the view of Wong Chun Yuan, Pahang PKR Youth Chief, who voiced out his disappointment when Tun Mahathir decided to take up the role of Education Minister.
These criticisms led to Tun Mahathir’s decision to step back from being the Education Minister, giving it to Dr Maszlee Malik.
And speaking of open criticism…
5. RTM was publicly criticised by the new Communications Minister… on an RTM show
With the newly elected ministers starting their first day at their respective ministries, RTM took the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with the Communications and Multimedia Minister, YB Gobind Singh Deo on a show called Bicara Khas Bersama YB KKMM.
When he was asked on how RTM can be revolutionised, YB Gobind said that RTM should look into the content and presentation of the programs aired. This is when he questioned why it seems like the content in Malaysia is 10 years behind compared to other countries.
YB Gobind’s criticism didn’t end there. When the host brought up the topic of how media were labelled as ‘the gomen’s media’ or ‘the opposition’s media’, he shared his experience where a reporter asked him how RTM had covered GE14.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s one-sided. Anything from the Pakatan Harapan wasn’t aired at all. This is based on what I see, read and heard. The news aired are always leaning more towards the (previous) government. But, that’s my perception. Some claim that there are content aired that was from the opposition but I couldn’t see that.” – YB Gobind told Bicara Khas Bersama KKMM
Criticisms aside, YB Gobind included suggestions to improve RTM and the ministry itself. An interesting fact to point out was that unless the term fake news is clearly and specifically clarified, efforts to abolish the Anti-Fake News Act could, according to YB Gobind, be easily abused. They also discussed media freedom, a possible reason behind all these changes in Malaysian’s mainstream media.
So, do we finally have media freedom?!
Based on all we’ve seen so far, the media is looking pretty free right now. It would seem that for now, at least, we have media freedom, and that’s an important thing. YB Gobind told Bicara Khas Bersama KKMM that there should be a system where reporters are given liberty to report. He mentioned that it would be unfair to reporters who had worked hard to get a story, only to have their story edited heavily to favor a certain party or ended up not being published at all, for criticising the government or any of its leaders.
The new government wanted to ensure that this culture would not be repeated and encourage criticisms toward them. Sabah’s Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said that media should be the voice of the people although what they say might be bitter to hear by the government.
“The government will not take action against any media outlet although the reports may not be accurate as long as national security is not threatened.” – Tun Mahathir announced.
YB Gobind also reminded that the law exist to protect both reporters and the public. This would create a balance in reporting as reporters get to report the truth and the public could have a say to defend themselves if the news written about them are inaccurate.
Besides, journalists have a certain code of ethics to abide by, right? So, as long as journalists are responsible for what they write, media freedom could work for everyone. And as for the mainstream media, we shall just observe the change that is bound to happen.