The Star and Malaysiakini News Coverage on ALVIVI – The Controversial of ‘Bak Kut Teh’

Written by Noor Zahra Zamalik

 Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee who are known as a controversial sex couple have offended the Malaysian Muslims when they posted a lewd picture showing both having breakfast during Ramadhan with a menu of ‘Bak Kut Teh’ depicting a Halal logo and a caption of “Fragrant, Delicious and Appetizing”. Their acts were outrageous and Malaysians critics slammed them for insulting Muslims particularly, during the holy month. Despite the issue, the couple also had shot to fame in 2012 after Tan posted sexually explicit photos of Lee and himself in a blog. As a result, the duo was jointly charged under Subsection 5(1) of Film Censorship Act, Section 4(1)(c) of Sedition Act and Section 298(A)(1) of Penal Code. However, Tan has jumped bail and fled to the United States to apply for asylum status whilst Lee was sentenced to six-month in prison. The couple was reported broke up in 2014.

Credit image; The Star Online


The Star

The Star is an English language newspaper owned by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the second largest party in the ruling of Barisan Nasional alliance and the largest shareholder for The Star Media Group Berhad. Since MCA and Barisan Nasional are politically aligned, this news portal is considered as one of the pro-government. The Star is among the other newspapers whose license was once withdrawn in Operasi Lalang in 1987 and resumed its publication after five months. However, after its return, it has lost its previous ‘liberal voice’. Its vision includes becoming one of leading media in providing relevant, accurate and distributing reliable information fairly and objectively whilst its mission includes being the voice of people, caring media group who produces innovative products to achieve its readers’ attention and maintain their loyalty.

Credit Image;


Malaysiakini is an online news portal known as an independent news media or an alternative media that was launched in 1999 and publishes its news in four different languages, English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil which serves non-government owned paid news agency. This news portal is owned by its co-founders and staff with 60% shares whilst 29% shares were invested by Malaysia Development Investment Fund (MDIF). Malaysiakini is mostly concentrated on local events and mainly emphasizes on issues with regards to Malaysian politics. The news agency claims that they achieve independence by providing editors and journalists’ freedom to practice professional and ethical journalism without interference from government, stakeholders or advertisers. The news portal aims to convey the right messages to citizens on current affairs and consistently support good governance, justice, human rights, democracy, and freedom of speech.


With regards to the news reporting, The Star takes this controversy seriously as it keeps updating and does the follow-up of the news articles with many different aspects. It is observed that The Star is trying to convey some important messages about freedom of speech and expression that is allowed in Malaysia with some conditions to be abided as provided in the Federal Constitution under article 10(2)(a). As such, a person may face legal terms if he or she is convicted for unfavorable actions that can cause disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred in the country. Apart from that, The Star is seen to be fair and objective in reporting news by covering Lee’s side of her views about freedom of speech and expression but however, regretted Lee’s attitude for her immoral act. On the other side, The Star also emphasizes that her action is unacceptable in the country as Malaysia comprises multi-religions and races whereas everyone deserves to live in harmony and peaceful environment without interfering and disturbing one’s life and privacy.

Based on Malaysiakini articles and news coverage, there are elements of sensationalism in reporting. The news portal is seemed to request fair and equal punishment for people who convicted the similar actions as it published news ‘No Sympathy to Infamous Alvivi’. This news points out the comments from its subscribers amongst the well-known people such as Ridhuan Tee and Zulkifli Noordin whom they claimed had belittled other religions and urged the authority to take legal actions. Thus, the news portal is trying to reach its objective by urging and voicing to the authority not to be biased and applying double standards with regards to laws and regulations through its writings in which attract readers’ attention as well as challenge their thinking and mind toward this matter.


The Star applies development journalism where it updates new photos in each of its articles as well as respects the sensitivity, when it did not share any of the pictures of Tan and Lee’s family member even though they reported about Tan’s mother who visited court regarding her son’s matter. Besides, The Star also uses other sources to update news about the duo through Bernama to keep track and continuously share the progress with their readers. Apart from that The Start is seen to be rational and practical when it published a suggestion from Dr. Hasan Mad from Malay Consultative Council (MCM) that the duo can be sent to the civic rehabilitation center for counseling and guidance instead of sending them to the detention center or a lock-up.

With respect to this case, Malaysiakini is observed to be less up-dated about the news and this can be verified through their news portal. Besides, their news coverage of this case is basically sharing opinions and thoughts from personal perspectives. They also use other sources to update news such as Bernama where it shows that the news portal is inconsistent in updating the news in their news portal.

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