Ask Blogger-turned-Deputy Minister, YB Dato’ P. Kamalanathan, about fake news and he would lament the demise of ethical journalism. He was once asked by a journalist from a local daily to comment on the video of an Indian-looking woman having her head shaved by two Malay-looking men that was made viral.
Being a responsible social media practitioner, Kamalanathan made the effort to verify the authenticity of the video, only to find out that it had originated from a South American nation, and the incident had happen in that particular country.
When we talk about the ethics of journalism, we would easily imagine the responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the journalists’ work; to verify information before releasing an article; and to shun stereotyping. Unfortunately, in the world of today’s journalism, accuracy is no longer a value but sensationalism is. More often than not, an article is conjured to shape the way readers think rather than to allow them to form their own opinion based on a balanced article.
Coincidentally, twenty years ago this year, the eighteenth James Bond movie was released. It was about a psychopathic media mogul who plans to provoke global war to boost sales and ratings of his news divisions. Although far-fetched, the plot is what many online and print media do nowadays. And what is to be provoked may not be as dangerous as a global war but equally explosive racial or religious clashes.
Enter The Star.
Yesterday evening, The Star announced the immediate suspension of its Group Editor-in-Chief, Datuk Leanne Goh Lee Yen and executive director Dorairaj Nadason, but not before it sent four editors to face the wrath of the KDN. The KDN had slapped the daily with a seven-day show cause, while the Inspector-General of Police has begun investigating it under the Sedition Act.
Sedition Act may be seen as a heavy-handed response, but not given The Star’s penchant for inciting racial and religious outrage. It has an array of examples of provoking the above.
During the month of Ramadhan in 2011, The Star published three pork-centred advertisements in its Ramadhan Delights pullout. Three pork advertisements in a Ramadhan Delights pullout could not have been unintentional. The KDN summoned The Star and was let off with a slap on the wrist.
A mere two years later, it published a report on the rise in the number of child marriages in Malaysia. The choice of visual display accompanying the report was extremely suggestive.
The Star harped only on the 2012 statistics provided by the Malaysian Syariah Judiciary Department (JKSM) where 1022 marriage application involving at least a minor was approved by the Syariah judiciary. And then it sought the view of Sisters in Islam to justify the report, putting Islam in a bad light.
What it failed to report was that in the same year, 468 marriages involving non-Muslim minors were also approved. How is that for balanced reporting? I know that the link given is from 2016, but could the The Star journalist filing that story not have gone to the National Registraton Department to seek for the non-Muslim numbers?
What is sad is that the story was filed by a Muslim journalist.
However, not all of The Star’s journalists were dancing the same tune. Joceline Tan whose columns have been taking on the Opposition by the horns, faces the wrath of the DAP and PKR on almost a daily basis. Another was Sira Habibu who, when based in Pulau Pinang, wrote exposés on the DAP and PKR polls.