‘Something rotten in Najib’s best democracy’

Nov 19, 2013

The state of the media in Malaysia indicates that the nation is not as democratic as it is made out to be, said a university-based researcher.

This is because most of the “mainstream Malaysian news media… is actually more akin to a BN party organ”, Nottingham University Media and Communications associate professor Tessa Houghton said.

“When the only media functioning as anything like professional news journalism organisations are in Mandarin or are online, it’s safe to say that something is seriously rotten in what aspires to be the best democracy in the world,” she said.

Houghton was responding to arguments against her media monitoring findings conducted in the lead-up to and during the 13th general election.

In particular, she was responding to crticism that she had chosen not to monitor party organs such as PAS mouthpiece Harakah and PKR organ Suara Keadilan.

In her article posted on Sunday in the Australian National University portal, the New Mandala, Houghton said: “Party organs and news media perform different roles, and the former cannot substitute for the latter.

“News media should facilitate informed political participation and hopefully, understanding of (if not agreement with) our socio-political community; party organs are for the express purpose of party advocacy, and are intended to ‘preach to the choir’.”

Houghton, who teaches at Nottingham University’s Malaysian campus in Semenyih, also countered those who argued that the bias in print media was balanced by social media.

She argued that about 35 percent of Malaysians – mainly older, poorer and more rural groups – do not have access to the Internet and that this is reflective of the voting trends.

“These populations have and continue to consume primarily BN propaganda masquerading as news, whereas wealthier, younger, urban populations are constantly bombarded with and socialised into consuming a multitude of competing and critical perspectives,” she said.

Beware ‘cyberbalkanisation’

As for social media, Houghton warned that continued reliance on social-media mediated political debate would lead to “cyberbalkanisation” – further polarisation based on political support.

“The media are key to the democratic and electoral integrity of any political system …

“Malaysian citizens who relied on English and Bahasa Malaysia newspapers and/or television as their media source during the GE13 campaign … were not provided with fair and accurate information with which to construct informed voting preferences.”

Presented earlier this year, Houghton’s research, done in collaboration with the Centre for Independent Journalism, found that news portals Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insider and the Chinese press were more balanced in their election coverage.

On the flip side, national news agency Bernama was found to be biased in favour of the BN, as were English and Bahasa Malaysia newspapers and television channels.

  1. #1 by Cinapek on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 - 11:07 am

    If she is a foreigner, I suspect her visa will be withdrawn very soon.

  2. #2 by Winston on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 - 1:01 pm

    The reason for the biased report in the government controlled press is that it is being used to portray the ruling party as do-gooders.
    That’s hardly surprising because everything in this country is being bent to the will of the ruling party!
    That’s how they can continue to perpetuate their grip on the country!
    And there are foreign countries that seem to agree with the propaganda of the Malaysian government.
    Perhaps some are being polite.
    Perhaps some are being naive and clueless!
    This is where the opposition comes in – to wake up the worldwide fraternity and make them wise up to what is going on in this country.
    We may not have storms like typhoon Haiyan or earthquakes or tsunamis but we have a federal government that is just as destructive, if not more so!!!

  3. #3 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 - 4:53 pm

    I tell you what is sinister- Najib going abroad and making snide remarks about looking for 40K Bangladeshi voters – first with Christian Amanpour, which is clearly pride himself, and then in Dhaka itself.

    He is twisting the facts publicly and selling it for all its worth abroad – its pathologically, no other way to put it, slimy – according to Webster, vile and offensive, untrustworthy, sinister. Its low-class wallowing muddy politicking.

  4. #4 by Noble House on Thursday, 21 November 2013 - 3:50 am

    Not only rotten, but he is prone to hyperbole. Besides, his delivery had no baby, just bathwater!

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Friday, 22 November 2013 - 3:29 am

    LOL, isn’t ahCheatkor d famous son of Nottingham Univ?

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