by Vanitha Nadaraj
Many Malaysians are angry with the mainstream media in the country - the kind of coverage, the ways stories are slanted to suit the political masters, etc - and inevitably, people accuse journalists of having no backbone, of being stupid and clueless as to what's happening in the country. Many times the accusations are vicious and hurtful.
The truth is we do have good journos in this country and as good as any in the world.
But where are these good journos?
Some leave because they can't take the controlled environment - they either join the foreign media or get into PR where the money is better. Why remain in an environment where the political masters are breathing down your neck on a daily basis, where you report on matters which only benefit the ruling powers and hide matters that are deemed as detrimental to their reputation, where you are forced to ignore the voices of the people.
Some journos remain in this kind of an environment because they feel they can somehow make a difference - they try to slip in one of two things and hope the masses can read between the lines.
Some stay back because they know no other way to feed their families. Journos are among the worst paid in Malaysia. Many graduates who enter journalism end up with a salary that is less than RM5,000 a month even after 10 years of service. There are some whose salaries do not reach RM5,000 a month even after 15 years of service.
There are people who say that our journos do not ask our politicians and ruling powers hard and penetrating questions. Which is not true.
Many have asked but the consequences are terrible because the powers that be can make their lives miserable. And there is no escape because every media organisation in this country is directly or indirectly linked to the ruling powers.
One reporter was elbowed at her ribs by a top politician's bodyguard when she asked a penetrating question - and this was about 18 years ago.
One reporter got transferred out because he dared to ask. Many are "dealt with" by their bosses because the powers that be put pressure on the media owners - via suspension, show-cause letter, etc. Case in mind: Hata Wahari.
May 3rd, 2011 by Teresa Press
Media statement by Teresa Kok, Selangor State Senior EXCO and MP for Seputeh in Shah Alam on 3 May 2011
Utusan Malaysia’s decision to sack Hata Wahari demonstrates again how UMNO stifles freedom of the press and denies the rakyat’s right to independent and ethical news-reporting
I regret the decision made by Utusan Malaysia to sack senior reporter and President of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Hata Wahari. Hata was sacked as he had the courage in which to criticise Utusan Malaysia for intentionally inciting racial dissent through its publication and being biased towards UMNO in their political reporting.
The action taken by Utusan Malaysia was long expected and not suprising to many parties because it’s clear that Utusan’s journalism is not based upon fact and honesty but is more concerned with protecting UMNO’s political interests.
The future looks bleak because of the present situation and also because of the quality of journos produced.
When you have an education system that does not allow you to speak out of voice your opinion, you will get journos like that.
These kids come from very different environment from us older set. They expect you to tell them what opinion to have because they are afraid to offend you - and that is how the education system has cowed them.
On top of that, a big majority of the journalism lecturers we have in our universities lack industry experience. The lecturers teach writing by showing slides about writing, with hardly any practice in writing news stories. The universities don't care about quality just as long as there are lecturers because private tertiary education is a huge money-raking business.
The battle here is not with the journalists. It is not with the media organisations either. It is with the govt that has kept restrictive laws and curbed free speech.
Change the govt and change the way media is operated.
Then you will see the kind of journalists that this country can produce - and you'd be proud to say that you come from a country where there is integrity and commitment in the media scene.