We re­port the news

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

THESE are not good days for jour­nal­ists and the pro­fes­sion. Many of them have come un­der at­tack, in some cases phys­i­cally. In most in­stances, the ver­bal at­tacks have been laced with colour­ful lan­guage.

Last week, I was on the re­ceiv­ing end of a bar­rage of choice words, not from the ones wear­ing red or yel­low, but from like-minded friends, who ac­cused the me­dia of en­cour­ag­ing vi­o­lence by con­tin­u­ing to cover ac­tiv­i­ties of what he re­ferred to as “red-shirted thugs”.

“You guys give them cov­er­age for every move they make – le­gal and il­le­gal. How could you even stoop as low as to at­tend a press con­fer­ence in a toi­let? You pro­mote them to sen­sa­tion­alise and sell your news­pa­pers. If you stop pub­li­cis­ing their rot­ten ac­tiv­i­ties, they will fade away,” said a friend as a group of us chat­ted over din­ner.

First, I told them, that theSun is not sold and our dis­tri­bu­tion is fixed. Sen­sa­tion­al­ism, if it ex­ists as claimed, does not mean we will be print­ing ex­tra copies for cir­cu­la­tion.

My ar­gu­ment was sim­ple: The me­dia cov­ers ev­ery­thing – the good, the bad and even the ugly. We are pur­vey­ors of news – happy or sad. We can be judg­men­tal or par­tial in our per­sonal views but when it comes to re­port­ing the news, the news or­gan­i­sa­tion is ex­pected to be un­bi­ased and neu­tral.

Hav­ing said that, I got the mes­sage that what the Reds did or the Yel­lows would do are news­wor­thy and the pub­lic have a right to read and un­der­stand their “fight”. Af­ter all, aren’t news­pa­pers sup­posed to in­form, ed­u­cate and en­ter­tain their read­ers?

Didn’t the dis­cern­ing pub­lic un­der­stand the men­tal­ity and the herd cul­ture of the leader AF­TER read­ing me­dia re­ports? Weren’t you as a reader in­formed of their in­ten­tions – right or wrong – af­ter read­ing our re­ports on their ac­tiv­i­ties?

The right for any in­di­vid­ual to ex­press an opin­ion is en­shrined in our con­sti­tu­tion. The same ap­plies for the gath­er­ing of a peace­ful assem­bly. How­ever, these are gov­erned by many pieces of leg­is­la­tion in­clud­ing caus­ing phys­i­cal and ver­bal harm.

If that hap­pens as it al­ready has, shouldn’t it be our duty as jour­nal­ists to re­port what hap­pened and what we saw, heard and wit­nessed? And if ac­tion is not taken, wouldn’t it be in ev­ery­one’s in­ter­est that we re­mind the author­i­ties of their re­spon­si­bil­ity to act?

So the is­sue of “black­ing out” news as some opined, is not the an­swer. Wouldn’t we then be ac­cused of self-cen­sor­ship and de­cid­ing what our read­ers ought to know?

Surely, is this not the free press that we are all yearn­ing for? For this theme to be taken to its fullest form, we can­not have se­lec­tive re­port­ing, lim­ited cov­er­age or bi­ased writ­ing or a com­bi­na­tion of any of the three.

The coun­try con­tin­ues to win “ac­co­lades” for all the wrong rea­sons. This time, it has over­taken Sin­ga­pore as the hub for sports match-fix­ing in South­east Asia fol­low­ing a crack­down in the city-state.

“Malaysia is the epi­cen­tre of trade for South­east Asia,” Chris Ea­ton, an in­de­pen­dent in­dus­try con­sul­tant and FIFA’s for­mer se­cu­rity chief told an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on il­licit gam­bling last week.

Wouldn’t that also be deemed an en­try into the record books as Malaysians con­tinue to be ob­sessed with the first, the long­est, the big­gest, the fastest and the high­est?

A Malaysian al­ready holds the du­bi­ous dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the first to be con­victed in an English court for dis­con­nect­ing sup­ply to the flood­lights at the Charl­ton Ath­letic Sta­dium years ago.

English league foot­ballers John Fashanu and Bruce Grobbe­laar were charged with match-fix­ing along­side yet an­other Malaysian – Lim Heng Suan. They were ac­quit­ted af­ter a lengthy trial. Our po­lice ac­tion seems to be deep­rooted when there are in­ter­na­tional foot­ball events such as the Euro­pean Cup or the World Cup. Dur­ing the Brazil­ian edi­tion of the lat­ter in 2014, po­lice ar­rested more than 200 peo­ple in a mas­sive crack­down. Af­ter that, there was a lull.

It was dur­ing the same pe­riod that the Fed­eral Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tions (FBI) ar­rested eight peo­ple from Asia in­clud­ing a fa­ther-and-son team from Malaysia. Phua Wei Seng and his son Wai Kit were ar­rested over sus­pi­cion that they were mem­bers of an or­gan­ised crime gang. How­ever, a Ne­vada court dis­missed the crim­i­nal case against them.

Now, we are back as the il­le­gal gam­bling cap­i­tal of the Far East.

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