Monday, January 26, 2009

The bias of the Malaysian press

One of the English language dailies in Malaysia carried a big story today – the defection of a government politician to the opposition. It was something that had been predicted by the opposition for some time and which the government had constantly been telling people would never happen.

According to the story in The Star the crossover had left the leaders of the Barisan Nasional (the ruling coalition) in a state of shock.

But where was this big news story. On page 1?

No, the front page story comprised a photo of a happy family celebrating Chinese New Year and an innocuous story about the fact that the use of debit cards in Malaysia was growing by 13% per month.

Page 3 then? No, that page comprised a photo of Kuala Lumpur's empty highways (after the CNY exodus) and a 'colour story' about the resilience of people born in the Year of the Ox.

The story about the defection to the opposition was buried on page 12. And the other English language daily, the New Straits Times, didn't even carry the story at all.

Now of course if it had happened the other way around – a member of the opposition defecting to the government benches – then it would have been all over the front pages, and probably occupied another two or three pages after that.

After the opposition made its massive gains in the election last year – despite the blatant bias of the government controlled mainstream press – the new Information Minister promised that in the future there would be more balanced coverage.

Hollow words it seems.

Or maybe the papers have been entrenched for so long in reporting only government propaganda, that they are no longer capable of recognising what is news.

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