This is a great assignment by social activist Ong Boon Keong and gang in Penang. Instead of ‘waiting to meet and have tea with ministers”, these guys have met up with the STAR to learn how these people operate. Even giving them a chance to engage and a right to reply before calling for a boycott, if that should happen.
The meeting was held on 24 March, 2008, at the STAR office in Bayan Lepas, between STAR representatives : Anna Cheah (Regional Associate Editor), Lim Ai Lee (New editor, Northern Region), J. Sebastian (Assistant Editor, New) and representatives from Civil Society members : Ong, Howie Ng and Damien (representing MAFREL – Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections), and a Penangnite named Stanley.
In short, they gathered that the STAR is a MCA paper, and therefore, not a newspaper but a propaganda machine. Which means, if you support STAR, you directly or indirectly support MCA=UMNO=Racists. You have to make a choice.
Another finding is that STAR is pro-government of the day and this is evident in their coverage of more PKR-DAP-PAS news these days.
Over in Penang Watch, Ong says:
“These are the reports from a close encounter with the Star by a group of civil society members-judge for yourself if the Star is worthy as a balanced press as required by the EC. Also you can always try to encounter these power holders in the media face to face rather than whine and whinge in coffee shops or in blogs alone”.
1) How they publish their stories:
Boss in KL tells them what to write. It’s a top down approach and if they were to cover all stories, it will still be censored or filtered by the KL office. They do not deal with national issues as the KL office will have dominance over these such as the issues of postal votes or election issues.
2) How does The Star cover their stories?
The STAR was asked why certain important news were either not covered or not covered in depth, for example, use of serial numbers on the ballot paper.
Ong brought this up as this caused a lot of confusion to the people especially on polling day. (Voters confused the serial number for voting paper -which remain, and the serial number for voters-which had been removed).
The Opposition get very little space, as everyone has noticed. According to the STAR, stories about the Opposition will be summarised into one story. For example, if Karpal Singh were to go from one place to another, then all his visits will be tied into one story or headline. But this seems different for BN as more coverage is given for them.
The STAR was also taken to task for conferring government titles to politicians who were actually just care-takers of the government during election campaign time. For example, Najib was still regarded as the DPM when in actual fact, he was only a party member of UMNO at that point of time.
The STAR’s answer to this was: practicality and an attempt to save space. (???). Doesn’t seem to answer the question at all!
3) As for “fair and balanced coverage”, whar does the STAR say about itself?
Anna reiterated that the Star has given a very balanced report. She was not apologetic at all for the “unfair” reporting as perceived by those at the meeting.
Stanley, one of the participants at the meeting, even went to the extent of sharing how some of the news almost made him “puke” especially the advert by the MIC intimidating the voters – `Vote for us or prepared to pay a price’.
Stanley also said that there will a campaign launched to boycott The Star anytime soon if the news content does not change.
Anna repleid that the Star needed to renew its license every year and because of this, they were afraid of “closing shop”.
The group reiterated that the MSM needed to take a “public stand that is pro public interest”.
But Anna sais the country was not ready for an unlicensed media. What? Does this mean we are all stupid and over-sensitive and reading ‘unlicense’ media can start a civil war?
She argued that “chaos & riots” may happen due to the sensitive nature of some news.
Ong says “As to how other countries are well without having to licence their media in this way she didn’t have any reply. Basically, it boils down to their revenue in keeping their company and workers afloat”.
4) The right of reply
One sided news by the STAR was so obvious when Anwar Ibrahim was attacked from all corners by BN party leaders before the elections.
One of the STAR editor, Sebastian, claimed that Anwar was not interested in his right of reply, to which Ong challenged him point blank.
Sebastian reportedly changed his story and conceded that he may have not heard or not well informed about the issue.
According to Ong, this was clearly a case of twisting facts or spinning on the part of the editors.
The right of reply was not given at all to Anwar as this clearly showed the one sided news being printed by The Star.
You can read more, at Penang Watch’s website here: