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Go figure August 27, 2006

Posted by elizabethwong in Current Affairs, Malaysia, Note2Self, Politics.

I’ve had a very bad week with journalists this week.

No, they weren’t from the mainstream media, but the supposedly “progressive independent media”.

First, one of them wrote an fictitious account of what had happened in a press conference. The chap wasn’t even present. There was not even a fact-check. The apology was grudging – why bother then? Instead, I had a call, someone screaming down the other line, “No one is going vote for your stories… not even me….”.

Blackmail. For pointing out an erroroneous news piece.

Second, one of their junior reporters called me and said, “OY! I *WANT* YOU TO …..”.

I was stunned for a few seconds as I’ve never been spoken to this way by reporters. Not BBC or the Guardian; not the state-media agency Bernama or even Utusan Malaysia.

It’s bad upbringing and bad manners written all over.

But the one that took the cake was a news report yesterday. It was a news piece created from a personal opinion of a university lecturer who declined to be named. No fact, no figures, no methodology. And no guts to come out in the open to qualify his remarks. How does one rebut or question a spectre? (Well, now we know why getting into political science department is akin to scrapping the bottom of the barrel.)

There are times I can conceed when a source cannot be named. Victim of domestic violence. Fear of retribution. Valuable information which leads the investigation to a scandal.

But it doesn’t apply here. It’s not a tip-off which allows the journalist to ask related questions so that someone can quoted. If you’re supposedly ‘prominent’, it means you’ve openly blabbed on other occasions.

And an entire news piece cannot be written based on the personal opinion of one (1) anonymous source. You need to qualify or have other named and identifiable sources. Otherwise, write a letter to the editor in a pseudonym.

Imagine a news report which goes like this:-

A prominent KL-based academic yesterday said that Parti Sosialis Liberal Msia will not dent the ruling coation.

The academic, who declined to be identified, explained that the opposition was fragmented due to a preoccupation with self-serving interests and not engaging themselves with practical issues affecting the electorate.

“The party is an “utterly disorganised” outfit, it has been marginalising non-Muslims and at the same time overly Chinese chauvanistic…these are examples of a ‘myopic’ and ego-driven opposition,” he said.

“No one likes them, and no one trusts them because they drink goat’s blood… these are traits of deranged minds.”

Furthermore, he believed that the electorate was unlikely to push for change as it has been circumvented numerous times by BN’s tendency to use repressive laws and ethnic and religious sentiments against the opposition. (…)

To add salt to insult, I’d just spoken very highly of them a month ago, so that their investors would continue to support as there’s some talk of diversification of investments.

I’m regretting this terribly. Nothing is worse than creating a monopoly of what can termed as “truth” and the alternative media should not be exempt from this.

In the meantime, I’m writing an assessment to ask the investors to dish out more money so that at the very least, they don’t skimp in the department of professional training, with grammar, spelling and punctuation thrown in for good measure.

Go figure.

International Federation of Journalists

Adopted by the Second World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists at Bordeaux on 25-28 April 1954 and amended by the 18th IFJ World Congress in Helsingцr on 2-6 June 1986.

1.Respect for truth and for the right of the public to truth is the first duty of the journalist.

2.In pursuance of this duty, the journalist shall at all times defend the principles of freedom in the honest collection and publication of news, and of the right of fair comment and criticism.

3.The journalist shall report only in accordance with facts of which he/ she knows the origin. The journalist shall not suppress essential information or falsify documents.

4.The journalist shall use only fair methods to obtain news, photographs and documents.

5.The journalist shall do the utmost to rectify any published information which is found to be harmfully inaccurate.

6.The journalist shall observe professional secrecy regarding the source of information obtained in confidence.

7.The journalist shall be aware of the danger of discrimination being furthered by the media, and shall do the utmost to avoid facilitating such discrimination based on, among other things, race, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinions, and national or social origins.

8.The journalist shall regard as grave professional offences the following:

  • plagiarism
  • malicious misrepresentation
  • calumny, slander, libel, unfounded accusations
  • the acceptance of a bribe in any form in consideration of either publication or suppression.

9.Journalists worthy of that name shall deem it their duty to observe faithfully the principles stated above. Within the general law of each country the journalist shall recognize in professional matters the jurisdiction of colleagues only, to the exclusion of every kind of interference by governments of others.



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