Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My version of the truth

By Raja Petra Kamarudin

Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek has warned Bloggers that there are no ‘untouchables’ and none are immune from prosecution. This is what Bernama reported:

The alternative media are not as untouchable as the public may think, Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek said on Tuesday. As such, he said, even though the people had the right to write whatever they wish through Blogs and other online media, they could still be subjected to actions under the law if they defame others.

"People think that the alternative media could do what they want. This is not true. Recently there were cases against some of these Bloggers," he told reporters after launching the First International Journalism Fellowship organised by the Malaysian Press Institute at the University of Malaya here.

Ahmad Shabery also said that the government had the responsibility to protect others from untruths and slander. With technology available today, cyber forensics would be able to trace and detect the identity of online writers or slanderers even though they might use the anonymity of the Internet or a different name as a shield, he said.

I am certainly glad that the new Information Minister raised this issue but I feel he has probably overlooked some very pertinent points. Therefore, as my civic duty and in the spirit of community service, allow Malaysia Today to correct some misconceptions he laid out lest he be put in the same class as the previous Information Minister who told the international media in a live telephone interview that Malaysia has an erection every five years. I don’t know about Malaysia, but my wife can testify that over five years I can get it up at least 1,800 times. And I am not even a horny old man, mind you.

Anyway, back to the issue of the day. First of all, Blogs and the Internet media are not the ‘alternative media’. According to the media baron, Rupert Murdock, by the year 2030, the print media would be rendered extinct and by then the electronic media would have fully taken over the market. Going by the media taiko’s reckoning, the electronic media is fast becoming the mainstream media while the print media is on its way out.

At the height of the Vietnam War, four out of five Americans depended on the print media for their news. Today, only two out of five Americans still depend on the print media. The rest have turned to the electronic media.Indonesia, which used to sell 12 million newspapers a day during the Reformasi days, now sell only half that, in spite of the large increase in population. A 50% drop in the backdrop of a 20% increase in population means that the drop is more than 50%, if calculated on a per capita basis.

The greatest threat to newspaper owners like himself, said Murdock, is how to migrate from the print media to the electronic media and still stay viable. The print media depends on advertising revenue to stay in business, explained Murdock. Revenue from newspaper sales alone is not enough. It would be even worse with the electronic media where most are now free and you need not buy any subscription to read the news online. This means 100% of your revenue would have to come from advertising, and because there are about 100 million Blogs and websites worldwide, this would create a very competitive environment with so many people chasing the same, limited advertising revenue.

Okay, take note of the politically-correct words and phrases to use. We are the ‘electronic media’. We are not the ‘alternative media’. And what the government calls the ‘alternative media’ is going to completely take over the market of what the government calls the ‘mainstream media’. If they really need to define which is which, then the politically-correct terms would be ‘government-owned media’ and ‘independent media’. Yes, the so-called ‘mainstream media’ is actually the ‘government-controlled media’ while the so-called ‘alternative media’ is the ‘independent media’.And that is the basic ingredient of a free media. It is free by virtue of it being free from subscription and it is also free by virtue of it not being government-owned or government-controlled. So you can’t control the free media if not then it would not be called the ‘free media’. And the new Information Minister had better brush up on his vocabulary and take note of this new terminology so that when he next delivers a speech or makes a press announcement he does not cling to the ‘old school of thought’.

Now, on the second point about the government needing to protect people from lies and making sure that they are given the truth, this is again something we most welcome and would certainly be prepared to meet him to talk about it in greater depth. Maybe he can join us at the National Press Club or some other suitable venue for a night of fellowship, two cases of wine, and ten crates of beer. Knowing the members of the Press Club who are heavy boozers, I am confident that most Bloggers and members of the media would be extremely happy to join him in this fellowship, especially if the wine and beer flows non-stop.

On a more serious note though, there are some very alarming news coverage from what the Minister would call the ‘mainstream media’, which borders on rabble-rousing and sabre-rattling and would most certainly fall within the ambit of a crime under Malaysia’s Sedition Act. I have been monitoring the government-controlled media and it absolutely perturbs me that they appear unaware of the adage ‘loose lips sink ships’. And, of late, there are undoubtedly many loose lips let loose in the government-owned media.

Dear Information Minister, let us get one thing very clear which I hope you will also make clear to the government-owned media. First of all, no Malay states fell to Chinese hands on 8 March 2008 like how they are spinning it in the government-controlled media. What happened was that some Barisan Nasional-led states fell to Pakatan Rakyat, which has now formed the new state governments. Furthermore, it is not about Malays losing political power to the Chinese, also like how the government-controlled media is spinning it. It is a coalition party of Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Dayaks, etc., losing some of their states and their two-thirds majority in Parliament to another coalition of Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Dayaks, etc.

In short, some political power shifted from the left pocket to the right pocket; that’s all. Anyway, let us, for the sake of argument, go along with the government propaganda and agree that some ‘Malay states’ fell into ‘Chinese hands’ -- even though we know this is not true. Is that so wrong? Where does it say in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia that this should not be allowed? In fact, the Constitution is even silent on whether the Prime Minister must be a Malay or whether a Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Dayak, etc., can become the Prime Minister. Let me enlighten you on the correct term to use here. It is called ‘democracy’, something that still eludes Barisan Nasional.

Umno is still the party with the most number of seats in Parliament. It got more than half the 140 seats that Barisan Nasional won. Umno’s seats are almost at par with the number of the seats the three opposition parties won combined. Umno got 78 seats while the three opposition parties combined got only 82. And only 28 of the 82 are DAP seats. The balance 31 from PKR and 23 from PAS could be considered ‘Malay’ seats seeing that these two parties are viewed as Malay-based parties (at least this is what they all say). Therefore, Umno’s 78 and PAS’s 23 would give the Malays 101 seats in Parliament. Add the PKR Malay seats to that and the ‘Malay’ seats would be more than half the 222 Parliament seats.

Aiyah, how many ‘Malay’ seats you want? More than half not enough or what? Cukuplah. Malays represent about 55% or so of this country’s population (Bumiputeras about 60%). So, if the number of ‘Malay’ Parliament seats is also about 55% then that should suffice and would be quite fair. Why must the Malays scream that they want 80% of the seats? Isn’t this not only greedy but also unfair to the balance 45% of the non-Malay population?Umno lost only 32 seats this time around compared to the 2004 general election. When compared to the 1999 general election, the drop is only about a dozen or so. This is a very small decline. The Indians and Chinese, however, almost got wiped out. Therefore, it is not the Malays who suffered but the non-Malays.

If anyone should be screaming it should be the Indians and the Chinese and not the Malays.In 2004, Umno got 110, PAS 9 and PKR 1. That would make it 120 Malay seats out of a total of 222 Parliament seats. (We are not even including the Malay seats from Sarawak yet, which would make the number of Malay seats even higher). Therefore, the non-Malays got less than 100 seats, and even lesser when we minus the Sarawak Malay seats.This time around, Umno got 78, PKR 31, PAS 23, and Sarawak was almost a clean sweep. This means the ‘Malay’ seats actually increased in 2008 over 2004 and 1999, which also means it was the non-Malays who suffered while the Malays gained ground.

Mister Information Minister, please explain this to all Malaysians, in particular Malays who are foaming at the mouth while shaking their keris. Yang rugi orang bukan Melayu. Orang Melayu menang lagi banyak kerusi banding dengan dulu. That is fact. That is truth. But the government-owned media is distorting this and is getting the Malays all worked up into a frenzy.And once you do this maybe then we can meet and talk about more intelligent and matured things becoming of your status as the Minister of Information. – Malaysia Today

No comments: