The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or known as Gabungan Pilihanraya Bersih dan Adil or Bersih in Malay is a non-government organisations (NGOs) coalition which seeks to reform the current electoral system in Malaysia to ensure free, clean and fair elections. It was officially formed on 23rd November 2006 as a joint communiqué that comprised leaders from political parties, civil society groups and NGOs. Bersih has accused the Election Commission under Prime Minister’s Department for manipulating the electoral process for giving an unfair advantage to the ruling National Front coalition. Bersih claimed that the electoral roll was spoiled by irregularities such as gerrymandering, phantom voters, mal apportionment and fraud postal votes. On 10th November 2007, Bersih organised the first rally with 10,000 to 40,000 turnouts and held a public demonstration at Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur. Supporters of Bersih were urged to wear yellow T-shirts as a symbol of protest.
Background of the Media
Utusan Malaysia or literally translated from Malay to English as “The Malaysian Courier” is a Malay-language newspaper published in Malaysia. Distinctive for its blue masthead as its logo and trademark, Utusan Malaysia was first published in Jawi in 1939. Utusan Malaysia became an influential medium for the people to voice out their opinions towards the ruling of British Government in Malaya.
BBC News is an operational business division of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that is responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and also current affairs. The department is the world’s largest broadcast news organization and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online news coverage.
Utusan Online released a statement that Bersih movement is associated with a Christian group based outside of the country. According to the official statement, it is intended to reduce the post of Prime Minister due to injustice in governing the country. According to BBC News, the goal is to push Bersih electoral reform in Malaysia and the government claimed that the action was unfair. In addition, BBC News earned the story by saying there are jets of water cannons from the Net group. Utusan Online discussed the financial funds collected by Bersih that has reached millions of ringgit.
It is not logic if the analysts assumed that the money would be channelled and sponsored from the Christians. There is a revelation of the missing money and that is the cause that triggers chaos and riots. The source also pointed out that the biggest contributor to Bersih movement was affiliated with the Christian. In the meantime, the source also explained that the Net also received financial assistance from NGOs based in United States, Britain and several Asian countries whereas according to BBC News, there was an incident pursuing and using weapons among them.
In addition, the newspaper accused Bersih movement made a scapegoat by the Election Commission to legalise the illegal demonstration and had a net movement of the political mastermind. According to Awani, Bersih 4.0 or a classified banned rally in Malaysia also took place in several other cities around the world. According to Foreign Ministry, the respected bodies will collect information from Malaysians who are involved with illegal assembly Bersih 4.0 abroad. Legal actions can be taken against them later. The Ministry’s Deputy Minister, Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican said the monitoring was conducted by Wisma Putra and their identities will be submitted to the national authorities so that actions will be taken according to the law of the country
Chronology of the Bersih Rally
Starting on 10 November 2007 at 5.30pm, Bersih 2.0 committee failed to submit a memorandum to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at Istana Negara. However, he described that the association achieve its goals and they also slammed the rest of the participants, including those from other groups. It ends at 7:30 am the next day, there were numbers of trucks of the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU), including those equipped with water cannons along Jalan Maharajalela and towards Masjid Negara and Masjid Jamek.
The evidence of the Bersih is when the Prime Minister felt threatened by this movement and start to take action to this group. The purpose of this motion is to seek justice on behalf of the people and attempt to overthrow Prime Minister. Bersih rally has been initiated since 2007.
Politics has always been a course of which includes the bright side and the gloomy side. It is a battle of both to the politicians. Politics is also a concerned issue in the local scene. The issue of 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal has been circulated and exposed since the year 2014. First of all, 1Malaysia Development Berhad is a strategic development company formerly known as Terengganu Investment Authority, wholly owned by the Government of Malaysia. 1MDB leads market-driven initiatives to assist the Government in propelling Malaysia towards becoming a developed nation that is highly competitive in nature (1MDB.com). Its aim is to drive economic growth through joint ventures that bring foreign direct investment into Malaysia. It lays its focus on fields of energy, real estate, tourism and agribusiness (Bloomberg.com).
In Malaysia, the mainstream press mainly consists of the published newspapers that can be seen on newspaper stands. For examples Utusan Malaysia, Harian Metro and Kosmo. The three ways of reporting are reporting that are being carried out in a positive light, negative reporting and neutral journalism.
The positive reporting consists of two ways which are; showing support by direct words in their reports or non-coverage. What is meant by non-coverage? It literally means, when an issue is sensational, or more revelations or exposure have been made by the other media outlets, but some media, which mainly is the mainstream media may choose to keep silent on the arising revelations. Non-coverage and nil-reporting also constitute positive way of reporting as they choose to not touch at all on the sensitive revelations in their reports.
It has to be made known that most mainstream media outlets own a higher responsibility towards the government. It is because, they answer directly to the government and they are strictly governed by the Malaysian laws such as Defamation Act, Sedition Act, Printing Presses Publication Act, the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission, and a few other related laws. They are bound to these rules and regulations.
For example, Utusan Malaysia’s article titled “1MDB jadi subjek serangan politik” clearly showed that Utusan is in favor of the government and connotes the government to be the “victim” in this scandal. Further in the article, it stated
“1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) telah menjadi bahan serangan bermotifkan politik dengan objektif untuk menjatuhkan ketua kerajaan yang dipilih secara demokrasi yang tidak pernah berlaku sebelum ini” (Utusan Online).
“1MDB has been the subject of attack with political motives with the sole objective to bring down the head of government that had been democratically chosen; something that has never happened before”.
Next, there is also a neutral way of reporting which is more truthful. The media does not take sides and reports it in a truthful light. The issues are not hidden, but enlightened in such way that is neutral and does not show support nor hatred. The example of media that exercises this way of reporting is Sinar Harian. The journalists tend to report the issue of 1MDB without giving their own thoughts or opinions that may be inclined toward any political parties.
Meanwhile, some media even have a negative coverage on the issue that might “polute” the thinking of the people. Some might even consider it as the hurtful truth, but it is up to the public’s acceptance to put their basis and beliefs on certain stories. For example, media tabloids such as Harakah and Suara Keadilan are clearly produced by the opposition parties, hence their style of reporting are direct, unfiltered, and sometimes extreme. They also show support towards the opposition parties and will report on any revelations and exaggerate them so as to get the most attention on the issues at hand. As a result, Harakah was sued by the Prime Minister, Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak for defamation based on an online article by the online portal of the tabloid. Harakah failed to meet the PM’s requirements for settlement and that their failure to do so caused the case to be brought to court for trials (NSTonline, Hidir Reduan).
It has to be taken into account that the new media which is the internet plays a vital role in disseminations of information at current. As most of them are written and handled by citizen journalists with no proper journalism qualifications, most of their posts are biased and include extreme reporting.
For example, “The Sarawak Report” had been banned and blocked several times because of their abusive articles. They also face multiple civil suits against them and mostly are still on-trial. Quoted from The Guardian, Sarawak Report was blocked two weeks after the website first reported on how investigators probing the debt-laden 1MDB discovered that some US$700m allegedly made its way into Dato Seri Najib’s personal bank accounts. Dato Seri Najib, facing mounting calls to resign, has denied receiving money for his personal use. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the country’s internet regulator, confirmed late on Sunday it had blocked Sarawak Report for reporting on what it called “unverified content” (The Guardian; Beh Lih Yi).
Because people demand to know more information about 1MDB conflict and only limited coverage can be found on mainstream media, hence it creates the urge to gain and demand more information to be released by the government. Especially opponent-biased newspapers urge the government to reveal more information or at least answer to most of the questions at rise. The government’s silent action may be caused by the fact that 1MDB scandal is a sensitive issue as it involves the goodname/ reputation of the country.
This is a totally different situation with the international media as they do not owe anything towards our government. They also exercise a free writing style and liberal in giving out their thoughts and opinions. As they are ungoverned by domestic laws, they freely report on our 1MDB issue and most shocking revelations also originated from these outside sources.
The United States, for example, is slanting left in their reporting style. This means they have become more liberal in their reporting. Conservatives have a point. Studies show mainstream media leans left, and that, as economists Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo have written, “an almost overwhelming fraction of journalists are liberal” (Fortune; Chris Mathhews).
On the other hand, Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is among of the loudest media outlets that revealed information on the 1MDB scandal. Among others are Al-Jazeera, The Sunday Times, The Times US, ibtimesUK, The Listening Post and The Edge.
At first, WSJ revealed that 700million USD was transferred into the PM’s personal account from unknown and shady sources. It further stated that the money may have come from the funding of 1MDB which is used in an ill-manner and that the PM misused his position as the head of government to attain “silent money”.
One of the articles by WSJ include one with the title “Malaysia Leader Under Pressure From U.S. Lawsuit Over 1MDB Assets” which stated the Prime Minister Najib Razak faced fresh calls to resign Thursday after the U.S. moved to seize more than $1 billion of assets allegedly siphoned from a development fund he founded (WSJ; Jack M.W).
1MDB issue was alleged to be closely-related to Malaysia’s international debts. However, the PM on June 11, 2016 (in Sarawak speech) said our debts are much lower than of the US’, Singapore’s and Japan’s. We are pretty much in a good financial state and Goods and Services Tax (GST) are going to be a great assistance to Malaysia’s economy.
The Dubai-owned news agency, Al-Jazeera, is also loud in their revelations on 1MDB issues. Al-Jazeera had also made documentaries on sensational issues such as the murder of Altantuya, the conspiracy of the disappearance of MH 370, and not to forget on the issue of 1MDB. Some might even question the eagerness of Al-Jazeera in reporting our 1MDB issue where they even went all-out to do their reporting. Some might think Al-Jazeera might have some hidden agenda by manipulating this issue. It is because their eagerness is extreme even though the issue does not concern on their countries’ welfare or of any importance to them. The same question rises upon WSJ and its reports. Some might question their eagerness to keep on looking for information to reveal from underground sources is extreme to a point that they may have the agenda to bring down the government of Malaysia and weaken Malaysia from within.(Al-Jazeera).
If that is the thought of international media, then what do local media have in mind? It can be clearly seen that tabloid such as Harakah and Suara Keadilan had been using this issue to their advantage, so as to continuously report and open more rooms for the public to view the government negatively. As the tabloid support the opposition parties, hence this will definitely benefit the opposition leaders and politicians.
The new media which is mostly written by citizen journalists shows a more extreme kind of reporting. They also intend to create doubts in the hearts of the citizens towards the government. The internet may exist as a platform to voice out opinions, but it is used and manipulated by certain groups of people to further spread hate towards the government. Websites such as Sarawak Report and Financial Daily were even banned in July 2015 because their contents were abusive towards the Government and violated the freedom of speech under Article 13 of Malaysian Federal Constitution. They also faced defamation sues for their actions.
Yes, it has to be taken into account some media may become “loud” in order to uphold the public’s rights and feed the public of what they want. But, as we live in a country that has strict laws, they should exercise journalism Code of Ethics so as to prevent any legal suits that will just cause financial loss to them, on top of a deteriorated reputation.
There is also the most recent court case regarding the 1MDB issue. The Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur had sentenced the Parliament representative of Pandan, Rafizi Ramli with 18 months of imprisonment for the offence of revealing one page of the audit report on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad. The judge, Zulkarnain Hassan concluded the case, but it can be appealed at the Court of Appeal [PP vs Rafizi Ramli]. However, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s top leadership said the party is confident that lawyers representing its vice president Rafizi Ramli will proceed with an appeal against his sentencing at the Sessions Court (NST Online: Awaina Arbee).
In a nutshell, the 1MDB issue has attained global attention, as well as getting mixed perceptions from the local citizens. The issue has become big because 1MDB concerns on people’s money, and the controversies surrounding it from Tabung Haji savings, and buying of lands above market price, and selling them back below buying price is viewed as so worrisome by the people.
However, some media especially the western media have exaggerated the issue with more and more revealing information, sometimes obtained from invalid sources. When the issue is all on the surface; that is when it obtains more and more critiques. Legal suits by the western countries such as the civil suit by the US on our PM had also caused the issue to be more sensational. Thus, as citizens, we should limit our involvements in such controversial reporting, and do not trust 100% on each and every article we come across, especially online.
1MDB.com. About Us: 1MDB. n.d. 10 November 2016 <http://www.1mdb.com.my/>.
Al-Jazeera. Calls for Malaysia PM’s resignation over 1MDB scandal. 22 July 2016. 11 November 2016 <http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/calls-malaysia-pm-resignation-1mdb-scandal-160721073904223.html>.
Bloomberg.com. Company Overview of 1Malaysia Development Berhad. n.d. 10 November 2016 <http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=140313786>.
CNBC News; Saheli R.C. Timeline: The twists and turns in the tale of 1MDB. 21 September 2015. 10 November 2016 <http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/21/malaysia-fund-1mdb-pm-najib-plagued-by-fraud-allegations.html>.
Fortune; Chris Mathhews. Conservatives Are Right: The Media Is Very Liberal. 2 November 2015. 11 November 2016 <http://fortune.com/2015/11/02/liberal-media/>.
NST Online: Awaina Arbee. Lawyers will appeal court decision on Rafizi, says PKR deputy president. 14 November 2016. 15 November 2016 <http://www.newsjs.com/url.php?p=http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/11/188531/lawyers-will-appeal-court-decision-rafizi-says-pkr-deputy-president>.
NSTonline, Hidir Reduan. 2016. 26 September. 10 November 2016 <ww.nst.com.my/news/2016/09/176146/pm-najib-harakah-fail-settle-1mdb-defamation-suit>.
The Guardian; Beh Lih Yi. Sarawak Report whistleblowing website blocked by Malaysia after PM allegations. 20 July 2015. 11 November 2016 <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/20/sarawak-report-whistleblowing-website-blocked-by-malaysia-over-pm-allegations>.
Utusan Online. 1MDB Jadi Subjek Serangan Politik. 22 July 2016. 10 November 2016 <http://www.utusan.com.my/berita/nasional/1mdb-jadi-subjek-serangan-politik-1.356409>.
WSJ; Jack M.W. Malaysia Leader Under Pressure From U.S. Lawsuit Over 1MDB Assets. 21 July 2016. 11 November 2016 <http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-prosecutors-1mdb-case-divides-malaysia-1469096192>.
The media industry in Malaysia is blooming and effectively spreading without us realising it. In Malaysia, people depend on the media especially the online media to obtain and disseminate information. The traditional media is still being used but lesser compared to the new media which is the Internet. The new media, the Internet, is dominating the people’s daily lives and it has been so important to the people. There are pros and cons of the traditional media and the new media. The traditional media is reliable but seems to be biased towards the ruling government and not being transparent to the public whereas the new media is free from interference of the government where the public can express what they feel as long as they still follow the rules and regulations but the credibility of sources is questionable. Another thing that matters is the differences of the style of reporting from the local media and international media. However, it depends on a person’s point of view of which media that they prefer. In Anwar Ibrahim’s case, The Star Online and BBC News are the chosen media to compare on the style of reporting.
The Anwar Ibrahim’s case has contributed to a controversy in the year 2008. On 26th June 2008, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was involved in carnal intercourse by inserting his penis into Mohd Saiful Bukhari bin Azlan anus in Desa Damansara Condominium, Bukit Damansara. This was the second charge of sodomy case. There are so many propagandas that have been published by the local as well as the international news sources. The case of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy has being highlighted both within the local and also the international media. The case has caused sparks and the politician received criticism and expression of concern from the international media. Some of the politicians in overseas commented that this case has jeopardized the Malaysia status as an Islamic country. On the other hand, in the local news source, there were so many comments regarding this sodomy case. There were conflicts against the opposition and the government political leaders about this case. The opposition political leaders accuse by stating that this was the government agenda to bring Anwar down whereas the government denied and they said the sodomy case was supported by the evidences.
Here is the chronology of Anwar Ibrahim Sodomy II case:-
2008 – Anwar’s former aide, Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 23, made a police report alleging that he had sodomized him at a condominium in Damansara. The report was made, two days after the alleged incident.
2012 – In early 2012, Anwar was initially found not guilty by the high court after the judge ruled DNA evidence had been tampered with.
2014 – The prosecution filed an appeal, and in March 2014, the court of appeal overturned the acquittal. Anwar was sentenced to five years jail but freed pending appeal.
2015 – Malaysia’s highest court upheld the conviction against Anwar, giving him a five-year jail term. Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria dismissed Anwar’s challenge against last year’s conviction for sodomizing a young male aide, saying the court found overwhelming evidence of the crime
In a conclusion, the style of reporting is an important factor to attract the reader to read the news. Despite of whether they are from international or local news, they need to be professional and practice ‘check and balance’ concept. The style of reporting that has been used by the media is one of the ways to persuade the readers to believe what they need to believe. The reporters play their major and ultimate parts in making their news fantastic and interesting to read. At the same time, they have to capture the readers’ attention so that the readers will agree with whatever the media is reporting. Propaganda is so powerful that can make the people recognize the specific political leader or party. Therefore, it is not a surprise when propaganda is used to support the statements that have been made by the respective political leaders whether from the government or the opposition party.
ABC News. (2015, February 10). ABC News. Retrieved from Anwar Ibrahim:A timeline of Political Turmoil: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-10/anwar-ibrahim/6083644
BBC News . (2008, July 18). BBC News. Retrieved 2016, from Malaysian Anwar in ‘Sodomy Alibi’: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7513963.stm
BBC News. (2010, February 3). BBC News. Retrieved November 3, 2016, from Anwar ibrahim Sodomy Trial Begins in Malaysia: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8495000.stm