Challenge to Mahathir to agree to the establishment of a Joint Barisan Nasional-Barisan Alternative Council on Mass Media to monitor daily coverage of local and foreign press to ensure fair, responsible and ethicqal reporting


Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang
 

(Petaling Jaya,  Monday): In trying to justify the one-sided, biased and unfair mainstream mass media reporting of the Barisan Alternative, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has given a perverse and outrageous definition of press freedom as to mean the freedom of the press to be unfree.

Yesterday he said:"Freedom of the press is  the freedom not to report what they don't want to report and we have never  complained."

Such a definition is no different from saying that press freedom means the "freedom of the press to be unfree".  This is like a slave-owner talking about human rights as including the human right to be a slave!

Since the last-minute decision by Mahathir to cancel his trip to South Africa for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) last Tuesday in order to hurriedly dissolve Parliament to hold general election, most of the mainstream media, both printed and electronic have transformed themselves into Barisan Nasional propaganda outfits against the Opposition parties - not only blacking out Barisan Alternative speeches and statements, but even worse, dishing out lies and falsehoods against the Barisan Alternative leaders.

Mahathir's outrageous definition of press freedom as equivalent to the "freedom of the press to be unfree" is clearly an attempt to provide an ideological justification for even worse press abuses and excesses from now on until Polling Day on November 29, making the tenth general election the "dirtiest" in the nation's history.

I believe the local mainstream mass media would set a new record in Malaysian press history in the snap eight-day election campaign in being most unprincipled, unethical and worse than the worst gutter press in other parts of the world in their utter contempt for truth and decency, violating all the basic canons of responsible and ethical  journalism.

Are the National Union of Journalists, Malaysian Press Institute, the Malaysian Press Club and other associations of Malaysian journalists prepared to come forward to call for ethics, responsibility and sanity in the mass media coverage of the tenth general election?

When Mahathir said "Freedom of the press is  the freedom not to report what they don't want to report and we have never  complained", was he trying to make a big joke about press freedom in Malaysia, or  did he think  that the IQs of Malaysians were  among the lowest in the world that they could believe in any utterance made by him.

Did Mahathir really expect Malaysians to believe that the Malaysian press have "the freedom not to report what they don't want to report and we have never complained"?

What happened to the Editors-in-Chief of Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian and TV 3 News last year when they thought they had such a freedom and were practising it?  Yes, there was no complaint. They were just  summarily dismissed!

It is open knowledge that one of the not-so-secret tasks of a Deputy Home Minister is to be the Super-Editor-in-Chief with hands-on responsibility  to vet daily mass media coverage, making daily phone calls to newspaper editors to change their reports, headlines and sub-headings in between editions!

Mahathirís definition of press freedom  is the latest gem of the perverse Mahathirish illogic which I had told him personally in Parliament as one of his unusual characteristics.

Mahathir's definition of "press freedom" as the "freedom not to report" would definitely go down in the annals of journalism as the classic definition of double-speak reminiscent of  George Orwellís "1984".

Yesterday, Mahathir hit out at the foreign press for giving the opposition parties wide coverage and nothing at all on  the Barisan Nasional.

Mahathir must be reading a special edition of the foreign press from those available to ordinary Malaysians!

Mahathir seems to be suggesting that since the foreign press is one-sided, biased and unfair to the Barisan Nasional, it is only right that the local mainstream mass media should be one-sided, biased and unfair to the Barisan Alternative.  Mahathir should know that two wrongs do not make a right.

In any event, are Mahathirís allegations against the foreign press true? If Mahathirís allegations are true,  I will stand by Mahathir to castigate the foreign press for being one-sided, biased and unfair to the Barisan Nasional for I never subscribe to the view that two wrongs can make a right.

I challenge Mahathir to agree to the setting up of a Joint Barisan Nasional-Barisan Alternative  Mass Media Council to monitor daily  both the local and foreign press coverage from now till Polling Day and to produce daily reports of unfair, biased and one-sided media coverage.

Are  Mahathir and Barisan Nasional prepared to respond positively to this challenge?  I am sure there will be no response, for while the DAP and Barisan Alternative can provide plentiful evidence of one-sided, biased and unfair coverage by the local mainstream mass media, the Barisan Nasional will be hard put to produce any such evidence by the foreign mass media!

One such one-sided, biased and unfair local mass media coverage are  the frequent reports on the lies and falsehoods of Barisan Nasional leaders against the Barisan Alternative, and  their refusal to publish rebuttals and denials.

In todayís press for instance, MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik again made the baseless attack on the DAP as "double-faced", for on the one hand declaring opposition to an Islamic State while on the other hand co-operating with PAS to help it to establish an Islamic state.

Liong Sik had been telling a lot of lies about the DAP leaders, particularly myself, but my rebuttals have not seen the light of day.  Two such examples, as reported in the Star, are as follows:
 

Is it by regularly telling lies about the DAP leaders that Liong Sik feels confident that 99 per cent of the Chinese would vote for the Barisan Nasional on Nov. 29?

(15/11/99)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong