Monday, April 1, 2019

WHEN AND HOW UTUSAN OPENED THE GATES FOR THE CONFUSION OF UMNO AND MALAYSIAN POLITICS AND THE COLLAPSE OF MALAYSIAN JOURNALISM AND THE TRUE NOTING OF THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH.


By Mansor Puteh


Not many would know this something I had seen with my own eyes, something that started to happen way back in 1977, which has become all too obvious today.

I just joined Utusan Melayu as a cub reporter after completing my studies at the then Institut Teknologi Mara (ITM), now Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shahalam with a degree in mass communications but with a major in Advertising.


Despite that I opted to go into the world of journalism because I knew I would not be in it too long as I had other plans to go into the film industry to take a master’s degree in film in America.

For a short sting in journalism, I thought going to work with Utusan was a better option than to go to the other English language newspapers. And not surprising, most of my fellow journalists who covered the same events and press conferences thought I was from any one of the English language newspapers. They did not I was writing or reporting for Utusan Melayu and not the New Straits Times.

Anyway, what I noticed then was how the editors had started to open the worm of cans and created a new style of journalism in Malaysia that was not there before.

And it did not turn out to be for the good of Malaysian journalism or politics and the development of the society and country.

It also caused the regression of the social, cultural and religious diversity that we once had that is now difficult to redress.

The only way to do it is to allow the dominant Melayu parties to govern the country so that the minority races led by their chauvinist leaders would also know their special place in the society and country.

This may sound to be a far-fetched idea but it is one that had been tested and proven to be good for the nation as what we could see since Mereeka and the fall of the Merdeka and Malaysia government on 9 May of last year, which unfortunately is led by those who were formerly in these governments, the governments they had failed which they conveniently deserted, mainly for selfish reasons and goals.

They also benefited the chauvinists who trusted their personality and hid their political, religious and economic ideologies in guise of democracy which only they know what they are.

And how did that happen, way back in 1977?

This is how it happened.

It happened when Utusan editors started to open up spaces in their newspapers to allow voices of discontent and mostly those in the lower ranks of Umno to voice their views and projections and utterances published.

This led to a series of counter allegations with previously unknown entities who were marginally linked to the government of the day and dominant political party which was Umno.

And over the years, more color was added into the political scene so that in time it became stained by many irrelevant personalities who hardly held significant posts in their respective political parties to come forward with their own version on unlikely issues and got them published too.

In the past only those senior officials of the political parties were allowed to make statements on behalf of their parties; but now everybody is entitled to their views however insignificant and intelligent.

With the internet and Facebook and other social media platform available now more and more hitherto unknown and insignificant individuals would trust their face in various contortions to state a claim to fame, even by being stupid and ridiculous, it does not matter.

I clearly remember how when I was in the editorial department of Utusan which was shared by Utusan Malaysia and Utusan Melayu which was on Jalan Chan Sow Lin, when some individuals would visit the editors to have their statement released by the newspapers.

The editors entertained them and they knew something like that had not happened before when minor or lower ranking Umno officials not known by many in the country could issue statements or their views on certain matters.

Some of the editors squirmed initially but they had to acquiesce to the demands of those who had come to the editorial office to share their thoughts and views on frivolous issues that appeared in the newspaper the next day. 

At that time it was on when the next general elections would be held, which had become a complicated issue and not news that would be released officially by the party president or party itself, but by everybody who dared to guess.

In the end all their guesses turned out to be wrong. But this did not matter to them or to the editors of Utusan, as the other newspapers, too, had started to give space to such people, and in the end, all hell’s broke loose with many having loose mouths and who did not care what spout out of their mouth anymore.

Sadly, there was no one who had cared to recognize this malaise and ignore the fact that Malaysian journalism which was earlier a respectable endeavor had suddenly been turned into ‘supermarket tabloids’ where conjectures, speculations and guessing fill the pages.

The think tankers too did not seem to be aware of this as much as those in the governing political parties in the Barisan Nasional coalition then.

And what can we say of the so-called ‘media experts’, too? Not much.

These ‘media experts’ too did not notice the changes in the electronic media with the new types of programs that were produced and broadcast for everybody to see which in the end caused many of the viewers especially the formerly ‘downtrodden’ who now suddenly feel empowered and brave enough to express their views on the most mundane things and issues which to the majority of the viewers were straightforward attacks on the government and relevant authorities.

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