Haris: Boycott the newspapers!

by Haris Ibrahim

To my post entitled ‘You want democracy on a silver platter?’, kimchan sent in a comment.

I reproduce below an excerpt of that comment :

‘…All that I have done, is to try and instill some sort of consciousness amongst friends and relatives, and nothing more. Having said this, however, what do you expect of a woman, who is almost 45, have a little child of 3 and is also a bread winner of the family? I believe there are many like me, so much of pain in us, wanting so much to do something for the country and for the child or children they have, yet limited by the fact that the children are there…Think of people like us, Haris, think of a way people like us can contribute, perhaps not with the risk of having to leave child uncared for… If you can find a way, many people like us will come and contribute.’

Firstly, kimchan, do not belittle your efforts to create awareness. That is, in my view, the most important effort all of us who want to see change in this country must engage in. Every little effort counts.

And, yes, I agree, there are many people faced with different circumstances who want to do something for the country but are constrained by one thing or the other.

You asked me, kimchan, to think of a way where such people may be able to help.

Well, how about this?

On 14/11/2007, I asked if we had it in us to bring the falsehood mongers ( MSM ) to their knees. You can read the post in full HERE. It also appears as a permanent page on the right.

I have for a long time now stopped buying the local papers. Why help to finance the government’s propaganda machinery?

I had also suggested boycotting products advertised in the MSM. This received a mixed reaction.

Today, this blog officially kicks off this initiative to sever the jugular vein of the government’s falsehood factory.

kimchan, if you haven’t yet, now’s the time to say ‘No’ to falsehood mongers. Tell your friends, your relatives and your colleagues.

Boycott the newspapers.

I reproduce below an article of the same title by Helen Ang which appeared in Malaysiakini on 29/11/2007


I feel like I’ve just been slapped, kicked and punched. And I’m neither Indian nor Hindu.The way mainstream media (MSM) have painted our fellow Malaysians black makes me thoroughly sick. MSM have assaulted Indians through their derogatory portrayal of the community and it stings me. Aliran Media Monitor’s Diary has effectively dissected MSM spin on the Hindraf rally to show up how unconscionable their coverage has been.When a community with its back to the wall takes to the street, I sympathise. I do not mock the melodramatic form of their lawsuit and petition. I understand that the massive turnout on Nov 25 was a cry of distress. Nathaniel Tan’s

‘Why I will walk this Sunday’ is an eloquent peroration on why all Malaysians must wake up, now.I wish I had read Nat’s piece earlier but it was only uploaded on his blog Saturday – a mere day before the gathering was to take place. His exposition is something to turn over in our heads and help us in our soul-searching because Nat spoke straight from the heart. Mighty MSM, I’m afraid, speak from the pay pocket.

There was a dearth of information in the public domain running up to the Hindraf rally, and later contradicting accounts of what really happened. Which only indicates MSM have long since lost any right to call themselves ‘newspapers’. A fortnight earlier, the Star had quoted police on a crowd segment of 4,000 at the Bersih march. This small number is deliberately misleading.

And again with Hindraf, MSM deliberately omitted an accurate depiction of the massive turnout. They failed to credit why Indians streamed into KL from all over the country. All they did was spin for their political masters.

What’s important to MSMThe Star peddles itself as the People’s Paper. This People’s Paper gave the Bersih rally all of a single page’s coverage, reflecting how much The Star thinks of the Malaysian people – us. It did not carry any picture of the crowds or of human beings. It had one photograph of motorcars stuck in a jam.

When casino magnate Lim Goh Tong died, he was front page news. Bersih on the other hand was hidden away in the middle pages. The Star devoted seven pages to the late tycoon. And it talked about the Tan Sri for days after, to the extent of telling us how much his funeral wreaths cost.

Lim is not ‘people’, he’s one person. Instead of the People’s Paper, the Star might want to consider tagging itself ‘the Very Important Person or VIP’s Paper’.

Then there was that column in The Sun headlined “Not everybody needs to demonstrate, please” which implied the tens of thousands of Malaysians at the Bersih rally had turned out in support of “a group whose acronym could be mistaken for a Clean Toilet campaign”. Jacqueline Ann Surin wrote: “All I wanted to do last Saturday was go for a facial …”Almost everyone took Surin’s flippant column at face value. She’s a well-known journalist who has advocated working within the system. However, her own take on the Bersih march is surely an indictment of the system’s limitations. ‘Proper channels’ serve only to restrict the reporter and his report becomes equivocal. Surin is an assistant news editor no less; how would foot soldiers fare in trying to get their stories past the gatekeepers?

Meaningful access to the public is ever so precious in these our turbulent times; Surin wasted hers talking about her irrelevant Saturday. I am going to fight for the public space which will enable a write-up like blogger Nat Tan’s unflinching Sunday to get the widest possible airing.

Call for Hartal ‘Do we, the people, have it in us to bring the falsehood mongers to their knees?’The above question was tossed by civil rights lawyer Haris Ibrahim in The People’s Parliament. What Haris asks is urgent in view of the general election coming up.

We need credible information. The public knew too little about Hindraf before last week and hence couldn’t make up our minds whether to support the march or not. So we don’t want to be confused by MSM lies when the election comes around.

We need credible reporters to seek and speak the truth, even if these are citizen journos in pyjamas. There have been three street walks, all of them ‘illegal’. The authorities have criminalised the freedom to assemble peacefully – a right guaranteed us in our Constitution. MSM is in denial by making out participants of the walks to be the bad guys.

Newspapers are nothing more than errand boys delivering warning telegrams from Umno and its lackeys: May 13, ISA, sack teachers who support Hindraf and other innumerable threats.

These newspapers do not have many credible news editors, only some incredible spinmeisters.

Not only does MSM keep us in the dark, they spooked us with Hindraf’s alleged sedition, left us wondering whether the gathering would proceed, and if another Ops Lalang was underway.

We buy newspapers with the expectation of reading reliable reports but if these are not forthcoming, why waste money? Or pay to have our intelligence insulted. The act of saying ‘No’ to newspapers is hardly taxing for those of you reading this now. The harder task is to spread it as a national message and convince others.

A cause everyone can supportWe are not breaking any law by making a personal decision not to buy newspapers.

We are not causing trouble by refusing to read newspapers.

We are not promoting racial disunity by boycotting newspapers.

Religion is not in this picture frame.

We’re doing good by saving money, close to RM1,000, in fact, if we cancel two annual subscriptions.

Why do this? Because we are Malaysians with conscience and our conscience is troubled.

We’d like everybody – anyone who reads online – to hop aboard and join in our demand for an end to MSM spinning and spinning webs of deceit.

Connect with us on how to break the mighty MSM monopoly of the Malaysian mind. We’d like your participation at People’s Parliament.Cyberspace is as real as you care to make it. We can do more than talk. We can act.

We will.


First published in The People’s Parliament on December 21, 2007

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