Daily Mail and The Straits Time News Coverage on European Tourists Naked on Top of Mount Kinabalu

Written by Noor Zahra Zamalik

Four tourists who were identified as German, British, Canadian and Dutch have been detained for allegedly stripping on top of Mount Kinabalu, Sabah. There were ten tourists including four women and six men in a group of twenty-seven Europeans climbing the mountain as they left the main group and headed to South Peak where they stripped and ignored warnings by their tour guide to stop their indecent acts who then reported the incident to the department officers followed by a police report. A few days after the incident, 137 climbers were stranded due to a strong earthquake with a few killed. The Kadazan Dusuns believed that the earthquake occurred due to the wrath of the spirit over the tourists’ misbehavior. The police arrested the four Europeans, identified as Eleanor Hawkins, Dylan Snell, Lindsey and Danielle Peterson. They were sentenced for three days’ jail and a fine of RM 3,000 each by the Magistrate Court of Sabah in accordance with the charges under section 294(a) Penal Code for committing an obscene act in Public.


Daily Mail

Daily Mail is one of British daily middle-market tabloids that is owned by the Daily and General Trust and it is published in London. It was launched in 1896 by Alfred Harmsworth who then was Lord of Northcliffe. He formed a news agency partnership with his brother, Harold. In 1930’s, the news editorial supported Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler and praised Nazi’s regime’s accomplishment as well as subsequently, used the news as propaganda to reach its audiences.

Today, the Daily Mail is led by a great-grandson of the founder, Jonathan Harmsworth whilst the current editor is Paul Dacre. The news agency caters their audience by providing selective news coverage on local and international incidents. Its contents are reliable but nevertheless being questioned and criticized for publishing sensational headlines and at times, the information is seemed to be exaggerating and unreliable. Besides, the news covers used provocative headlines to attract its readers. In view of this, the news portal has twisted one of its headlines “Give us ten buffalo or face three months in prison: Tribal demands ‘fine’ from tourists caught stripping naked on Malaysian mountain to avoid prison” where it exaggerates, exploits and provokes people to discuss and criticises Malaysia over the issue.

The Straits Times

The Straits Times is an English newspaper which was originally owned by Singapore Press Holding (SPH) established in 1845 during the early period of British colonial rule. The newspaper was a mainstream media in Singapore and delivers extensive news coverage of world news, East Asian news, Southeast Asian news, home news, sports news, financial news and lifestyle with a timely updates. The news provides balance and neutral report which suits their core values to excite its audience; hence, it is regarded as reliable news reporting and able to educate its readers with clear explanation on certain issues whilst providing attractive headlines to catch readers’ attention. 


Daily Mail

The Daily Mail is known for delivering sensational news coverage in order to incite its audiences in discussing and debating controversial issues over the world. Going through the headlines and contents of the news, one observes that the Daily Mail manipulates news and headlines in many dimensions. For instance, “Give us 10 buffalo or face three months in prison” headline clearly showed it has misled the issued. The Native Court defines “Buffalo compensation” according to Sabah Customary law as those who are found guilty would require them to pay ‘sogit’ (compensation) in the form of buffalo. It is clear that the Daily Mail had twisted and exploited the story of “buffalo compensation” so that the four charged for public indecency had to pay buffaloes to escape the jail term. The other twisted story was the occurrence of the earthquake was due to the wrath of the spirit which was essentially a manipulated facts and besides, there is element of bias where the news seems to favor the tourists despite committing public indecency. Hence, the style of reporting is frivolous and exaggerating with the intention to incite the readers.

The Straits Times

Based on The Straits Times’ coverage on the issue, its news reporting seem to be reliable and at the same time it achieves its objective besides providing a true picture of the incident. For example, it explained clearly about the “buffalo compensation” is one of the customary laws in Sabah which comes under the jurisdiction of the Native court practices. The other news was about the statement by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan explaining the Sabah earthquake that claimed the lives of 11 climbers was a result of the indecent act of the tourists which is contradicts with The Daily Mail’s news report. The news portal also helps to educate its audience of true news reporting which in essence should be transparent. Overall, the news presents balance and fair reporting which reflects its core values of integrity, excellence and encompassing changes, particularly.


Daily Mail

Daily Mail consistently updates their news and covers controversial headlines in order to attract readers’ attention which in their view is a development of journalism. However, its updated news is sensational and hot topics for discussion despite omitting some of the material facts of the whole story which appear in other sources like The Daily Telegraph and Malay Mail Online as follow-up. In terms of pictures, they use personal pictures of the tourists from their Facebook as well as other media sources and gives credit to the individual persons. These can be seen in several misleading articles such as “Canadian, Dutch, and German tourists who post naked on top of ‘sacred’ mountain are blamed by Malaysian government for causing earthquake that killed 16 people plus other misleading news. Nevertheless, the news portal is regarded as more liberal and they practice high level of freedom in reporting.

The Straits Times

As for The Straits Times, it is seemed maintain its consistency in updating their news plus using other sources for their news coverage. Besides, the news portal is also referred by other international news agency to identify the names of the four tourists as well as using their own picture and other media to publish in their portal with credits given on the picture. Apart from that the news portal is seen as exercising diligence in news reporting hence the news is written in structured manner in order to maintain its professionalism besides achieving its objective.

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