Media blackout/self-censorship under Abdullah as bad or even worse than under Mahathir

The media blackout or self-censorship of unpleasant or unfavourable news under the Abdullah administration is getting as bad or even worse than the 22-year Mahathir premiership.

The latest example is the blackout in the local media of a survey by the Singapore American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) released on Friday that executives of United States companies in Southeast Asia say corruption is a “major impediment” to doing business in five countries in the region, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Singapore was the only country in the survey where corruption was not considered a major issue.

The lack of predictability and stability in government regulations were also major concerns for American companies doing business in ASEAN countries.

In the survey, 62 percent of the AmCham members expect Southeast Asia to become more prominent in the next two years as it continues its strong economic growth.

The survey, however, also showed that corruption was a major factor for American firms operating in the region. Indonesia was deemed most corrupt, with 86 percent of the survey respondents claiming corruption practices was a major concern. About 72 percent said it is a factor in the Philippines; 67 percent in Vietnam; 63 percent in Thailand; and 51 percent in Malaysia.

This episode is a most adverse reflection both on the media and anti-corruption policies and record of the government, completely at variance with the reform pledge and agenda promised by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that he will lead not only a clean and incorruptible government of integrity, but also one which is open, accountable, transparent, which respects freedom of information and committed to hear the truth

Malaysians share in the joy that the Prime Minister is happily married yesterday.

They have only one wish, that a happy Prime Minister can impress on his Cabinet and government to assure the happiness of the people where they can begin to see the fruition of Abdullah’s reform pledge and agenda, particularly to fight corruption and promote media freedom.

  1. #1 by yokozuna58 on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 2:00 pm

    If the allegations made in and subsequent postings are true – GOD help us as obviously those in power cannot or will not

  2. #2 by azk on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 3:37 pm

    Abdullah cannot do anything about it. Like anyone else, his best role is to play along. Enriching his SonInLaw is first thing he is doing. Without money and trusted people in place, he is just a vulnerable puppet. So expect nothing from this man except for cronyism and corruption for the time being.

    As with Mahathir, there will be problem. Once a man gets money and power, it’s never going to be enough.

  3. #3 by Tai Lo Chin on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 4:04 pm

    The blackout in the local media of a survey by AmCham that corruption is a “major impediment” to doing business in Malaysia is another example of “Realpolitik” in operation.

    Other than Singapore, which country in ASEAN or even Asia has not this problem of corruption?

    With (the lowest) 51% of respondents in AmCham saying corruption is a problem in Malaysia, we are compartively OK perceptionwise by ASEAN standards.

    Corruption per se is not impediment to business. In some cases it even boosts business. There are two conditions in latter case. First you must know who to pay which get things done. The problem is every one in every tier wants to be bribed and thereafter nothing gets done. The second is meritocracy. Good example foreign investments especially American are pouring into China and Vietnam. You mean to say that corruption is not rife in these places? Japan used to be an economic powerhouse : again was there no corruption? What about Korea? Even the US where corruption has reached the level of art where lobbyist pays monies to the charitable trusts of their favourite congressmen lobbying their business interests (called prk barrel politics in phillipines). It is lack of meritocracy and the NEP that deter business here more than corruption. Lets call a spade a spade.

    five countries in the region, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

  4. #4 by pwcheng on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 4:06 pm

    MR PM now that you are happily married with new wife, please remember that that your job as a PM is not only responsible for the happiness of one person but the rakyat of Malaysia. Get down to eradicate corruption as fast as you can before it gets you. Get your conscience clear as the people are solidly behind you on eradicating corruption which obviously is getting from bad to worse.

  5. #5 by Tai Lo Chin on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 4:18 pm

    Behind every successful (ordinary) man is a wise and graceful woman, and the downfall of every (ordinary) man also a woman – the rapacious avaricious and overambitous one that drives him mad if niot murder. (I qualify “ordinary” because for the extraordinary man, he needs no woman to drive him to higher or lower levels).
    I am hopeful if you believe what Raja Petra said about Jeanne Danker (Abdullah) being graceful etc so much that he would not by his own admission “whack” Pak Lah if the First Lady were to just whisper to him to desist from doing so. If we think Pak Lah ordinary then, we should urge our concerns for happiness of rakyat and the importance of a PM to honour reform and integrity pledges not to the man but the new First Lady. She’ll make him better.

  6. #6 by WFH on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 4:49 pm

    The survey said corruption is an impediment common to the 5 named countries. To me that is only part of the problem.

    The other significant problem, as far as Malaysia is concerned, which was not commented on in the survey as reported, is that other ASEAN countries do not have the “value-added-impediment” of the NEP or an equivalent affirmative action policy which favours heavily the less-productive workforce at the expense of the more productive but minority workforce in commercial, educational and employment opportunities. Of course there are also capable bumis and Malays, but their numbers are significantly lower. Supposing everything being equal and meritocracy-based, there will be shortage of openings for even the brighter ones of the bumis/Malays. The result is that businesses, whether owned by locals or foreign investors be they American or other foreigners, do not get the best efficiencies, values and returns for their investments. Confidence is not there.

    Just like an old vinyl record repeating the same track over-and-over again. Yet this present Government stays either deaf, dumb, plain stupid, OR it’s playing smart to hold the country’s future to ransom: that if the bumis/Malays do not continue to gain first benefit from investments, then let the country’s competitiveness suffer, which will result in ALL non-bumis/Malays sure to suffer BIGGER. Knowing the weaknesses of the non-Bumis/Malays to be risk averse, that a half a loaf is better than no loaf, the Government has got it right – it’s the non-Bumis/Malays who’ve got themselves to blame for asking – no, in fact offering – to be screwed, time and time again, each time getting more and more degrading than the previous.

  7. #7 by justiciary on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 5:05 pm

    In media,we are controlled.Economically we are controlled.Spiritually we are also controlled.This is real bodohland.

  8. #8 by Sino Malay on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 5:29 pm

    There’s a thin line between corruption and patronage in Malaysia and this has posed difficulty for Volkswagen in its talks with Proton and Khazanah. Press censorship is not only confined to matters concerning the government but also the commercial sector. On Wednesday night (6 June), at about 10, hundreds of passengers of an Air Asia flight from KL to Kota Kinabalu were put through a harrowing experience when one of the engines of the plane exploded and caught fire. The air-hostesses were helpless as they were carrying for their life. But not a word was reported in the Malaysian Press.

  9. #9 by Winston on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 6:38 pm

    Under the circumstances, the best thing that visitors to this blog can do, to strengthen the hand of the opposition parties, like the DAP, is to spread the word to convince others to vote for such parties.
    Also, inform them not to be swayed by the supposed goodies offered by the government, especially around election time, as these short-term benefits will ultimately place them under the yoke of the BN for good.
    Let’s work together to throw off the shackles!

  10. #10 by firehawk on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 7:13 pm

    Media is controlled. Police is controlled. ACA is controlled. Habislah.

    All the alleged corruption and excessive gravy trails covered up.

    Some multi multi millionaire based overseas should sponsor someone like RPK and his ilk to come up with their daily newspaper.

  11. #11 by wtf2 on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 7:42 pm

    the old man in singapore mentioned something that goes along the line…if the top/core is rotten, habislah. the people on the ground will just follow….

  12. #12 by mendela on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 7:52 pm

    Heard rumors that Smart highway will remain free until GE is held.

    Guess GE is not far from now.

  13. #13 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 8:02 pm

    Media blackout and self-censorship still exists after Abdullah Badawi took the helm. That the media is still expected to be a propaganda tool for the ruling party – selectively reporting news and events to make the government look good and downplaying if not censoring unfavourable news like that of the survey by the Singapore American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) – has never changed, especially with the Printing Press & Publication Act still in place.

    But to say that “the media blackout or self-censorship of unpleasant or unfavourable news under the Abdullah administration is getting as bad or even worse than the 22-year Mahathir premiership” may not be 100% correct. [Perhaps we feel the media blackout and censorship more poignantly and acutely because of heightened expectations generated by the PM’s self proclaimed open and consultative style of governance.]

    I think media blackout or self-censorship was worse in the Mahathir’s years.

    Within limits of course, the three major English dailies have pushed Abdullah’s professed tolerance of critical media more than they dared to do during Mahathir’s time.

    For examples, UMNO owned New Straits Times, for example, had some critical reportage and commentary in highlighting the Nudegate, Botakgate, automobile Approved Permits, Zakaria Md Deros’s non-payment of assessments scandals; Sisters In Islam (SIS) executive director Zainah Anwar is given regular space to take cudgels against religious bigots and extremists; Zaid Ibrahim and even Deputy Premier’s brother were given space to expound their thoughts on how the NEP was making the country uncompetitive; the NST itself had a skirmish with the Establishment over of publication of the cartoon of the busker drawing the Prophet’s cartoon. The Star, owned by MCA which normally stays safe on sports, business and lifestyle issues has permitted editors like Wong Chun Wai to write cautious criticism of the authorities, such as over the banning of Amir Muhammad’s documentary “The Last Communist”, the ill manneredness of the two UMNO MPs over the ‘bochor’ remarks, religious zealots and their morality police. the more prominent example being The Sun and its editorial. The Sun, which is not shackled by ownership control by political parties, has offered a comparatively more critical commentaries or editorials than the other two. For examples it published the “Letter to the PM” by columnist and assistant editor Jacqueline Ann Surin, who criticised PM Abdullah for not making good his election promise to be a PM for all Malaysians. It criticized the delay in implementation of the IPCMC; it highlighted the repeated failures of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Integrity to convene hearings of parties who could shed light to controversies relating to corruption and scandals.

    Comparing with Mahathir’s time, TDM was well known for showing overt displeasure at mainstream media at the slightest whiff of criticisms of him or his administration. Once when our Star Wong Chun Wah wrote something to the effect that TDM did not do sufficient to address corruption, TDM called a press conference to correct Chun Wai, and from what I heard, extracted a personal apology from the journalist. Three daily local newspapers The Star, Watan and Sin Chew Jit Poh had their licences suspended for several months during 1987 and 1988 following allegations of publications of ethnic issues. During Mahathir’s time, Irene Fernandez, Director of Tenanganita, a women’s non-governmental organization, was arrested on 18 March 1996 and charged under section 8(a) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act with publishing “false news” in a report on alleged human rights violations in camps for detained migrants. One recalls YB Kit’s son Lim Guan Eng was charged and found guilty on a dissemination of false news charge for highlighting the plight of a 15-year-old Malay schoolgirl’s alleged relationship with then Malacca chief minister Rahim Thamby Cik. Mahathir’s daughter Marina wrote a piece in the Star captioned “Whither Justice?” that was as critical as Guan Eng’s of the handling of Rahim’s case but was not charged! To be fair to TDM, he did not come down hard on Internet, (Malaysiakini’s Petrof’s offensive letter included – but that was because he had made a pledge to the international community on Internet Freedom under the Bills of Guarantee for MSC, his pet project.

    Now who has been charged for disseminating false news under Pak Lah’s administration? I don’t recall anybody not even the great RPK of Malaysia Today.

    I am not defending Pak Lah’s record on media blackout versus freedom in absolute terms or terms relative to his pledges of greater freedom of expression. I am just putting the matter in perspective that media blackout under Abdullah has not been worse than Mahathir’s administration. It is in fact comparatively better – so far.

  14. #14 by undergrad2 on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 8:24 pm

    Is there anything new here?

  15. #15 by undergrad2 on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 8:33 pm

    Credit must be given to those who decide what we read and what we not read in this case. Corruption is a commonly shared secret among not only businessmen and investors foreign and local but between government officials and politicians and the former. By agreeing to a blackout they are doing readers a favor. Otherwise we would be tearing our hair out by their roots – not an attractive outcome as Samy Vellu is reminded each time he tries to comb ‘his hair’.

  16. #16 by Kingkong on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 8:39 pm

    Mentor Minister LKY of Singapore had said it recently in an interview with some Foreigners that to eradicate corruption it is important to maintain a top echelon of few clean leaders for a start to work with. If the top echelon is also corrupted, then it is very difficult and impossible to eradicate corruption.

    In Malaysia, the top echelon is not clean at all since TDM’s time. There is actually no hope at all to eradicate corruption, and that is why people start to back off and you have this kind of saying like “corruption boosts business “. No, corruption is cancerous. It is not negotiable.

    Of course since there is no hope to eradicate corruption, our “ Boleh “ government perhaps thinks that we might as well don’t hear it, let’s blackout/ self censor the media. Let’s hide our heads under the sand and pretend that nothing happen. This is Boleh land’s tactic which has been used again and again.

    Malaysian people really have a lot to do. Kit please lead us to get rid of these bunch of Boleh people. Show us a way, and we definitely support it.

  17. #17 by mendela on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 10:06 pm

    I have mentioned many times that AAB is the biggest liar of all times.

    During the last GE campaign, he was seriously talking about eradicating corruptions, clean Government, etc. Malaysian voters thought he was for real and gave him a whopping 90% of Parliament seats!

    All people know clearly now he is just a big liar, probably biggest liar Malaysia ever produced! What did he do to fight the ever serious corruptions the past 3 years?

    Let’s vote UMO and its cronies out!

  18. #18 by smeagroo on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 12:52 am

    I hope he wont lie to his wife that he love her.

  19. #19 by dawsheng on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 2:20 am

    “The media blackout or self-censorship of unpleasant or unfavourable news under the Abdullah administration is getting as bad or even worse than the 22-year Mahathir premiership.” Uncle Kit

    Today we have the internet and in years to come the influences of internet may surpass those of conventional media, the trend of media blackout and self-censorship will reverse, it is just a matter of time as more people pickup the internet, especially the younger generation. Even today, the internet is percieves by most to be the strongest component ever existed to the opposition’s advantages to rival BN’s control media. But has the internet been fully utilised by the opposition so far?

  20. #20 by Irene on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 7:29 am

    Can we change all these survey results by just showing Abdullah Badawi that we are one of the 5 countries that is branded with Corrupted Goverment. Abdullah made his son and son-in-law rich overnight by being the PM. Does it not shown he is also corrupted as he was just a politician almost 3/4 of his life and he did not come from a rich family. How does his son and son-in-law become so rich suddenly. WHAT ABOUT his cronies, his son’s cronies, son-in-law cronies etc….

    How do we Malaysian expect a clear and not corrupted goverment when PM, Deputy PM and the rest of the Ministers and family become rich once they have the position.

    Is’nt it very very clear how the figures of 51% comes from.

  21. #21 by good coolie on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 7:52 am

    I remember Dr. M lamenting that corruption is wrong because investors can’t know the real cost of setting up and running a business in Malaysia. Well Doctor, why doesn’t the country have an official list of “hidden cost due to corruption”. For example:-
    cost for closing one eye (Customs, Police, Evironment-controllers),
    cost of licensing, cost of protection by Govt. servants, payments to politicians and political parties, kickbacks, etc.

    If the govt. think tank can’t come up with the list, we the public will!

  22. #22 by tomcat on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 9:09 am

    I wonder why the gov wants to blackout the news. Afterall, they can always say Malaysia is one of the least corrupt country in ASEAN and mentioned Indonesia as the highest with 86%.

  23. #23 by Godfather on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 10:19 am

    Let’s not split hairs as to whether freedom of the press was better or worse under this administration compared to the previous administration. The circumstances were different in that TDM never had to face as much of the alternative press as Badawi have to face now. There were also fewer “issues” under TDM as he was firmly in charge and matters were a lot more straightforward. Under Badawi, you never know who’s in charge, and hence opinions are generally flying everywhere.

    We should focus on the obvious – an administration that is corrupt to the core, that has little or no control over the government machinery, which begets even more corruption. An administration that is unwilling or unable to walk the talk and does not answer the demands of the public, as though we are non-existent. The only good thing that comes out of this is that the foreigners know the true situation – and in many cases, the foreigners know more than the locals.

  24. #24 by Jeffrey on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 10:47 am

    It is not a question of splitting hairs. We’re continuously assessing here the performance of the present administration – the areas remaining stagnant, areas of improvement and areas where things got worse. We’re evaluating if, in certain limited areas like the discourse space and freedom of expression, the situation has improved somewhat as compared to previous administration.

    It is true you never know now who’s in charge, and hence opinions tend to generally fly everywhere but that’s only to an extent and relating to public statements of ministers or MPs on issues. It does not explain the phenomenon of the comparatively more critical commentaries or editorials appearing in our mainstream newspapers like NST, The Star and The Sun owned by the ruling parties and manacled by the Printing Press Publication Act. It doesn’t explain why opposition members and detractors were charged for ‘false news’ or sedition in TDM’s administration and none as yet under present administration.

    Surely there is a difference between an autocratic leader telling everyone to shut up and means it and that of a present leader who encourages everyone to speak up and tell truth to power, though whether or not he listens or means it is a separate and inconclusive issue.

  25. #25 by Cinapek on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 11:06 am

    The most frightening prospect is the possibility that the PM is not even aware that all these negative news have been reported elsewhere. Those with vested interest are working hand in hand with the 4th Floor boys and SIL to keep him in the dark and blissfully unaware that his administration is falling apart. He is so busy travelling to boost his international image, courting his new wife and falling asleep, he has no time to look into the details. He is like the emperor in the Aesop fables “the Emperor’s new clothes” . One day he will find out too late that he has been conned into stark nakedness. Hope Mrs PM reads blogs and the alternative media and alert him to the realities around him before it is too late.

  26. #26 by mendela on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 11:23 am

    Even he reads all blogs and knows what is happening in Malaysia now, AAB won’t able to do much since his family members are equally rotten, if not worse.

  27. #27 by Godfather on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 11:53 am

    Jeffrey said:

    “Surely there is a difference between an autocratic leader telling everyone to shut up and means it and that of a present leader who encourages everyone to speak up and tell truth to power, though whether or not he listens or means it is a separate and inconclusive issue.”

    Are you suggesting that a leader who tells everyone to speak and tell the truth, but does nothing about them is better than an autocratic leader who wields the big stick ?

  28. #28 by k1980 on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 1:08 pm

    On April 20, ACA director-general Datuk Ahmad Said Hamdan (then acting ACA director-general) had said that the agency had wrapped up its probe into Johari’s alleged corrupt practice….. So why the delay in revealing the outcome of investigations into allegations that he corruptly received RM5 million to release three criminals held under the Emergency Ordinance. Or the sandiwara actors still not ready to perform?

  29. #29 by Jeffrey on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 1:13 pm

    “Are you suggesting that a leader who tells everyone to speak and tell the truth, but does nothing about them is better than an autocratic leader who wields the big stick ?” (Godfather)

    The suggestion (of which kind of leader between the two is better) put is an extrapolation and not one that I have ever made in my posting. That is another question outside scope of this blog thread for another day!

    All I am suggesting is that the statement “the media blackout or self-censorship of unpleasant or unfavourable news under the Abdullah administration is getting as bad or even worse than the 22-year Mahathir premiership” is inaccurate.

    I am also suggesting that from the angle of freedom of expression, more people – and that includes the mainstream media people – are encouraged to speak up without being prosecuted (so far) under the present administration and that by itself (from perspective of development of grass root democracy) is good thing and a plus factor for the present as in contrast to the past administration.

    Having said this, no one however disputes that it would be ideal if Pak Lah also acts more of what have been told to him (after he has told everyone to speak up), and that if he continues not to listen and act on what he hears, it would constitute a failing of leadership.

  30. #30 by k1980 on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 2:08 pm

    The media blackout or censorship of unpleasant or unfavourable news is vital to the BN in ensuring that its rural supporters remain ignorant of the shortcomings of the Dollah administration. Without access to international news sources and alternative foreign reportings of important events, such as the Altantuya murder case, the rural folks can be hoodwinked into believing the the government version of events.

    A good example is the international outcry over the Iraq “Oil-for-Food” scandal which reportedly involved the PM himself, apart from other seemingly “clean” and “incorruptible” leaders such as the former UN Secretary-General and the US Vice-President

  31. #31 by Godfather on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 3:53 pm

    Thank you, Jeffrey. One says “if you spread all sorts of rumours, I will detain you under the ISA.” The other says “by all means speak and debate the truth, but I am not going to doing anything to promote the truth that you want and I won’t abolish the ISA either.” Both sides of the same UMNO coin – a gross failure of leadership.

  32. #32 by good coolie on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 4:07 pm

    But during the old management’s days most of us dared not critisize the management. Now at least we can do so and without risk of being thrown into Kamunting Hotel. With the new management at least we take two steps forward and after that two steps backwards. We at least get to taste and see the forward position.

  33. #33 by DiaperHead on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 11:23 pm

    As Tai Lo Chine says behind every a man there is a wise and graceful woman. This is a sexist remark and should be condemned.

    What is not sexist is when one says behind Malaysia’s Fat Lady who knows? You cannot see.

  34. #34 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 11:34 pm

    wtf2 & King Kong,


  35. #35 by Tai Lo Chin on Monday, 11 June 2007 - 11:52 pm

    “As Tai Lo Chin says behind every a man there is a wise and graceful woman. This is a sexist remark and should be condemned.What is not sexist is when one says behind Malaysia’s Fat Lady who knows? You cannot see.” – DiaperHead.

    Wrong – mocking a woman whose political position one dislikes in derogatory terms based on her appearance (a fat lady) for the sake of humour without regard to her ability and brains displayed in domestic and international trade forums – now, that would be a paradigm of a sexist statement that is deserving of condemnation being no different from Samy Vellu’s picturesque analogy of the physical attributes of a 50 year old woman to a dilapidated building requiring repairs and maintenance ! :)

  36. #36 by k1980 on Tuesday, 12 June 2007 - 9:52 am

    “Samy Vellu’s picturesque analogy of the physical attributes of a 50 year old woman to a dilapidated building requiring repairs and maintenance ! — 50 year old women don’t bocor anymore?

  37. #37 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 12 June 2007 - 10:51 am

    When I was a student, ‘bocor’ means exactly that. But today I would hesitate using the word as it has taken new meanings not found in the dictionary.

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