See no evil, hear no evil… that seems to be the policy of the mainstream English papers when it comes to reporting on the brutal suppression of protests against the hikes in oil prices and electricity tariffs such as the one held near the Twin Towers yesterday.
And even if we see some evil, let’s not highlight it too much, boys… no, no, put it on page 2 or further inside, where it won’t attract too much attention or make the public outraged. Let’s keep it short; and no, no pictures – not of the demonstrators, not of the riot police, not of the water cannons….and certainly not of bleeding or injured demonstrators. Let’s stick to some “safe” subjects like the central Java earthquake or the MIC election results and plaster those on the front pages.
Hmm, and just to be sure our readers won't notice the report on the protest, let’s make it tiny and tuck in at the bottom of the page somewhere, where it is not easily visible.
At least, when those Media Monitors complain, we can always say we did carry a report on the protest. And let's keep our fingers crossed that all those other pesky websites and blogs don’t create too much of a stir.
Let’s see how today’s major newspapers covered the protest:
theSun – small report towards the bottom of page 2. No mention of any police brutality. No mention of bleeding or injured demonstrators.
The Star – small report further inside. The report said the police moved in only when the crowd became “rowdy” – but the report didn’t describe what it meant by rowdy. Was it just chanting? Or speeches? Or what?
NST– Oh well, what do you expect? See no evil, hear no evil…
Contrast this with the statement issued by Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET):
The manner in which the police used violence on the crowd which resulted in about three persons sufering head injuries is deplorable and completely unacceptable. One victim was kicked and beaten by police in front of his two young daughters.
Possibly the most shocking image to emerge from the violent action of the police on Sunday, 28 May 2006 is that of an FRU officer apparently using the using the butt end of his tear-gas canister launcher on the naked head of a protester. This is reminiscent of South Africa during the days of the Apartheid regime. This horrifying image, which will long endure in the minds of all peace-loving Malaysians, is itself an eloquent argument for the immediate formation of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
By keeping silent or downplaying the brutal police action, the mainstream media are in effect condoning such brutality and keeping a lid on public outrage against such heavy handed action. In effect, this gives the police a free hand in the use of such violent methods, knowing that the media can be relied upon to play down such incidents. Where is the journalistic integrity and commitment to the truth?
The papers don’t even bother to ask why the earlier demonstrations were allowed to proceed without incident while this one was met with force. Was it because the earlier protests were held before the Sarawak elections and in the run up to the Islamic Human Rights Conference? And was the latest demo suppressed because of the ruling coalition’s electoral setback in Sarawak, where opposition parties such as DAP and Keadilan made notable inroads?
And of course no questions asked about the delay in establishing the Independent Police Complaints Commission, recommended by two Royal Commissions.
That is the sad state of our media.