Flashback: How the editors froze during Kg Medan

Either put up or ship out like ntv7’s Wong did

By Reina

When race riots broke out at Kampung Medan in 2001 between Indians and Malays, the editors of a particular newspaper waited for a response from the government as to how they should report the story.

This is how it usually is with issues involving race and conflict. The editors have, since the days of the Mahathir administration, been told to downplay racial issues, and not incite anger and hatred among races.

So when the Kampung Medan riots broke out and news of people being killed was flying all over the place, these editors were sitting still, wondering what to do. As journalists, they are supposed to report the issue as it is and for what it’s worth. But they knew better than that because if they went ahead and reported, Mahathir would have come down hard on them and editors would have lost their jobs.

Phone calls from Big Brother

And how does the instruction from the government come? Via phone calls from either the PM’s Office, or his special officers or the Information Ministry. But it is always a verbal instruction, never a formal handwritten one.

So that evening as FRU trucks were rushing towards Kampung Medan to douse the anger, the editors of one newspaper decided to go ahead and use the story in Page 4 while the editors of another newspaper decided to push the story to the back pages – Page 10 – and play it small, only a one-column report.

It was only the following day that someone from the government called up to inform them how to play the story and gave a list of instructions, which among others were:

  • only use government or police as sources of information,
  • do not interview any of the victims, hospital officials or the residents of Kg Medan.

To this day, no one really can say how many people actually died during the race clashes at Kampung Medan.

Govt control over stories

There are times when the government demands that certain news stories or features be faxed, e-mailed or sent to them for vetting and this probably started happening during the Badawi administration.

A journalist who writes commentaries and analyses on politics had to fax over her articles to certain government officials close to the Prime Minister’s Department to get their approval. The same daily even had to fax over, to these same officials, a pullout they were doing for the Aug 31, 2007 National Day celebration to get their approval.

There was a slight difference in the way the media was treated during the Badawi administration compared to Mahathir’s.

Mahathir would periodically call for meetings with the editors of the mainstream media organisations and tell them what is to be covered and what are the stories that should be downplayed.

Directives on how to report

When editors are faced with a situation like the Kg Medan racial riots, they wait for instructions from the Prime Minister, his department, the Home Ministry, etc before proceeding.

This is the standard procedure for editors in that they are required to seek clarification before going ahead with stories – and the instructions are usually very clear and precise.

However, during the Badawi administration, not only were the instructions coming from the usual sources, they came also from the Prime Minister’s son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin, and from a senior editor of a particular newspaper – and almost on a daily basis.

As a journalist, you have two choices – stomach the nonsense or quit like what Joshua Wong Ngee Choong did.

Update: 11.14am (this posting has been retitled)

2 Responses to “Flashback: How the editors froze during Kg Medan”
  1. donplaypuks says:


    I’d appreciate it very much if you would give max publicity to my letter to Mkini published today at http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/130103 and titled:

    “Maika share sale an election gimmick?”

    It might help voters see straight at HS. Thank you.

    “I refer to the Malaysakini report New firm takes over Maika Holdings.

    The salient facts about G Gnanalingam’s recent offer to buy out all Maika shareholders are as follows:

    1. Maika’s paid up share capital – RM125 million.

    2. Gnanalingam’s offer price – RM106 million or RM0.85 per share.

    3. Oriental Capital Assurance Bhd’s (Ocab) paid up share capital is RM100 million and as at Dec 31, 2008 it’s audited NTA was about RM103 million.

    4. Maika’s investment in Ocab’s share capital is 74.165% or 74,174,640 shares, ie, Maika is Ocab’s holding company as it has both more than 51% equity shares and control in Ocab. Maika’s CEO Vell Paari a/l Samy Velu also sits on the board of directors of Ocab.

    5. Prior to Gnanalingam’s buyout proposal, there were two other offers to Maika as follows:

    a. RM129 million or $1.75 per share by Salcon

    b. RM149 million or $ 2.01 per share by Usaha Tegas, the holding company of tycoon Ananda Krishnan.

    The Salcon offer was frozen by a court order taken out by Nesa Cooperative, Maika’s single largest shareholder who had objected on the grounds that Maika’s 74% investment in Ocab had not been independently valued.

    Nesa had recommended the investment in Ocab be sold by open tender. Nesa also revealed there were two other parties interested in acquiring Ocab’s shares, one from Europe and another from Australia.

    As to the RM149 million offer by Usaha Tegas, apparently Maika rejected this offer as it could not accept certain pre-conditions insisted upon by Usaha Tegas. What these pre-conditions were have not been revealed by Maika’s directors.

    In the light of the above, I demand the board of directors of Maika explain:

    1. Why do they think Gnanalingam’s offer of RM106 million is suddenly acceptable to them when they unequivocally know there are local market players in the insurance business and foreign parties who are willing to pay more?

    2. Why are they unwilling to offer the Maika or Ocab shares for sale by open tender with a reserve price of say, RM150 million, given the Usaga Tegas offer? If as Gnanalingam says, Maika’s debts are RM30 million, the net minimum proceeds of RM120 million would be a fair and handsome reward to Maika’s shareholders who for some 20 years have received no dividends while there was a period when their CEO was paid a remuneration of RM15,000 per month.

    As to Gnanalingam being quoted as saying he’s doing ‘national service’, he contradicts it by saying he will need six months to find another financier which suggests he is looking at flipping the Maika/Ocab shares for a quick gain. So much for national service.

    Financiers may do charity work and make sizeable donations from their profits and gains, but their natural predatory instincts mean they will always squeeze out the juicy bits of the best deals for themselves.

    It seems clear to me, and for the matter any sane person, that the Maika/Ocab shares are worth a hell of a lot more than Gnanalingam’s RM106 million offer.

    The RM64,000 question is why Samy Vellu, Vel Paari and the Maika board of directors appear to be not interested in maximising returns to their long-suffering shareholders which include themselves by supporting the lowest offer?

    Is there a deal behind the deal?”

    we are all of 1 race, the Human Race

  2. Lazarus says:

    Demolish Lord Muruga Statue At Batu Caves & Lord Buddha Statue In Tumpat! Read here:

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