The special press conference by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to clear its name was botched by every measure.
The press conference was held amid worsening public perception and an outcry that came on the heels of the resignation and expose by political economist Dr Terence Gomez.
Many had given the benefit of doubt to the country’s sole vanguard of anti-corruption to come forward with the truth and nothing but the truth.
But the MACC’s press relations fouled up every sacrosanct rule in media relations. According to one news report (the Vibes.com, 6 January 2022, “Shambolic MACC presser raises further questions about anti-graft body’s integrity“), “the handling of the press conference was a complete disaster”.
The MACC reportedly discriminated against the media. It chose to wilfully not invite several media for its tell-all press conference. Although the MACC venue for the press conference was built for a capacity of 300 people and could easily seat 150 people under Covid protocols, only 40 selectively admitted media personnel were given access to the much-awaited press conference.
This is nothing new. We have often heard how politicians and government heads practise media discrimination, allowing only ‘friendly’ media to cover their press conferences.
But when a vanguard institution, charged with the responsibility of protecting the nation from corruption without fear or favour, emulates the politicians’ warped media relations practices, one cannot forgive the MACC easily.
The fundamental logic is when you have the truth on your side, you need not fear any media. And even the media, for some unknown reason, twists what you say, you could take them to court and stand to gain from public support.
But time and again, we witness this foolish Malaysian practice of trying to shut the gates on media that are deemed ‘unfriendly’ or ‘biased’ or even ‘an enemy’. These people never learn that whether you invite or slam the doors on some media, while being pleased with those that appear obligated to you, the news still gets reported by all the media.
The lesson? Do not discriminate against the media.
Today, the media are not confined or walled up within the traditional media sphere. All the archaic Machiavellian laws cannot imprison, let alone obliterate, the voice of journalism.
Society is evolving and moving fast from the industrial age to the information age and now is entering the artificial intelligence (AI) stage. Gate-keeping, discrimination or even enlisting a band of friendly media to your side is akin to the ostrich syndrome – burying your head and eyes in the sand.
Only truth can be your sole armour till the end.
The MACC may think that it has successfully nailed a whistleblower. On the contrary, social media is overflowing with negative comments – a disaster to the reputation of the MACC.
When the MACC fails, our nation’s good name, image and reputation fails. In a battle like this, wisdom must prevail. But wisdom is the servant of truth.
Do our leaders and the government think we can risk worsening the country’s global standing any further, especially when we are reeling in the wake of so many corruption court cases involving people in high places and unresolved past crimes, including the Altantuya murder?
The powers that be must know that when the MACC’s reputation has been tarnished in the public space, any silence will result in them being held them accountable for their sins of omission, eventually. When will those responsible ever learn that discriminating against the media in press conferences will never pass the test of time?
The passport to securing public support is integrity, transparency and accountability. Speak the truth and no media will risk shooting themselves in the mouth.