Gov’t Should Not Direct Social Media Platforms On Content

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There’s case for review of media ‘community standards’ for compliance with law

There’s the belief among cynics that “the media, being an unthinking animal, prevents us from knowing the truth as the bankers keep us permanently in debt, the pharmaceutical companies — “promoting fake solutions for fake problems” — ensure that we stay sick, the weapons manufacturers ensure that we remain in a constant state of war, and the government ensures that all this is done legally”. There’s so much Karma — cause and effect — created.

Karma, the 1st eternal law based on eternal truth, does not exist. It only exists if we create it.

The Karmic forces, by their very nature, exhaust themselves sooner or later. What others do to us is their Karma. How we react is our Karma.

Once we understand that, the cynics believe, we understand everything.

It’s clear from widespread complaints on social media that there are platforms and media which take a disingenuous “cakap tak serupa bikin” (no action, talk only) and “indah khabar dari rupa” (the news isn’t what it seems) approach on community standards.

Kangaroo Court

The errant parties act with impunity as judge, jury and hangman, all rolled into one in the kangaroo court. “Siapa makan cili, dia rasa pedas” (if the cap fits, wear it).

Based on personal testimonies on social media, these platforms and media allegedly exercise self-censorship, impose censorship and deny the right of reply to even their own content, manufactured or otherwise. In Karma, those who block the “clear energy” — block being read as opposition and obstructionism — will be moved out of the way. This may explain the numerous changes in Malaysia’s media landscape.

It’s said that the errant media may be against allowing — read the proverbial Achilles Heel — the free flow of thoughts enshrined in the Constitution.

In short, the media will not publish anything if the Publisher and/or Editor disagree with it although journalism, as a craft, was about bad news. One media, in perfecting the “cakap tak serupa bikin” principle to a fine degree, promotes subscriptions with the following message: “I disapprove of what you say. But I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” — Evelyn Beatrice Hall

“Freedom of speech is a space we protect at Bikin Malu Sahaja.”

The jury has never been out on related crafts. The good news is about public relations; Customer feedback may be the best form of recommendation and promotion; and Advertising appears to be based on sheer lies, for want of a better term.

Renewed Lease Of Life

The near-dead mainstream media and probably dying alternative media will gain renewed lease of life if they allow the free flow of thoughts. It’s the raison d’etre.

Again, it’s about keeping the conscience clear and avoiding “blocking the clear energy”. It’s the guilty conscience that kills. No media can survive without public support. Advertisers will desert media without public support. There might be other risks as well. See here.

The errant media don’t hesitate to ban subscription accounts, block comments below online stories if the former connect the dots, they block mobile phone numbers and email addresses.

Many media may have a Hidden Agenda. A small number of people are employed by them to do virtually hatchet jobs. Columnists compile known facts and pass them off as Opinions. They avoid connecting the dots. Readers are left wringing their hands and reading between the lines. There’s no perfection in writing, based on keeping the conscience clear, for perfection in law.

Follow-ups are lacking in the local media. Issues should be pursued until the logical conclusion.

Often, probably lacking in skills, news stories are neither played straight nor based on the legalistic inverted pyramid structure and format. The news stories may be full of holes if the 5Ws and 1H aren’t covered (who, what, when, where, why and how).

Readers can spot what’s missing.

Then, there’s the CNN-style story-telling. The public are hungry for news and views, not entertainment disguised as journalism, and preying on the vulnerable.

Plagiarism

The media freely plagiarise content from each other. It’s still plagiarism even if the material is rewritten and attributed. There’s no originality of thought and no original thinking. There’s no law on plagiarism. It’s not a triable issue. All laws, to digress a little, are in fact works of plagiarism.

In connecting the dots from memory, based on all the readings, there’s the originality of thought and original thinking.

There’s much editorialising — injecting the views and bias of the reporter — in news stories. The public, not aware of how journalism works, may not complain. However, they know biased reporting when they see it. That’s how the New Straits Times (NST) Group and a couple of other media groups, for one, lost their premier position. Indeed, the propaganda barrage by the NST Group was behind the defeat of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) in GE14 on Wed 9 May 2018.

Gov’t Crackdown Planned

The gov’t, allegedly notorious for secretly directing social media platforms to take down content, may be considering a renewed crackdown on free speech. See here.

It can’t be said that the social media platforms will comply with new government directives if the content isn’t against community standards.

Anyone can go to Facebook for example and post anything on the Timeline. Journalists might think that netizens know nothing about journalism.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

No media can beat the social media on feedback. It’s instant. Netizens are not patient but they do consider content which deserves recognition.

Despite what journalists think about social media, the various platforms place a high premium on credibility. Journalists can’t claim that they have credibility after denying free speech and killing the freedom of the press.

The regular media is their own worst enemy. Ironically, they blame social media for their plight. See here.

None of these media in the link are breaking even. There may be political owners behind these losing concerns.

4th Estate

The media, the 4th Estate after the legislature, Executive and judiciary, is a public service organisation.

It’s duty-bound to cover matters of public concern and public interest.

Instead, the media in Malaysia avoids investigative journalism like the plague. The field has been left wide open for the Sarawak Report, Asia Sentinel and international freelancer Professor Murray Hunter.

My apologies to the Edge if they are still engaging in investigative journalism after a rare judicial review victory against the Home Ministry.

The reality in the media world was best highlighted when Trump preferred Twitter to CNN. True, the relationship turned sour. Facebook too banned Trump permanently.

CNN, which harped 24/7 on the Big Lie, pandemic and vaccination, isn’t by any means an isolated example. It’s telling that Trump isn’t given airtime on CNN although they keep mentioning his name and badmouthing him.

The West is hysterical on democracy, human rights and rule of law only when it suits its convenience. Otherwise, it acts with impunity.

Stories From The Middle

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recently accused CNN of starting stories in the middle — i.e. deliberately lying and lying by omission — and misleading viewers.

It’s an open secret that CNN does not look at the whole story but only parts of it which suits their convenience. Life isn’t black and white but comes in various shades of grey. There are exceptions, qualifiers, caveats, ifs and buts.

Malaysiakini

In Malaysiakini, a case study for this commentary and analysis, apparently the online news portal took down alleged contempt of court comments by five subscribers within minutes of being alerted by police. It isn’t clear whether the comments were against Malaysiakini’s community standards.

In any case, the subscribers appeared to be more interested in insulting the court. Their comments had serious holes.

Glib one-liners, rhetorics and polemics should not be allowed. Many subscribers act with impunity and post highly personal and offensive comments.

No Space In Media

There are many issues in Malaysia which find no space in the media.

Briefly, these include the little known aspects of the PTI (pendatang tanpa izin or illegal immigrants) phenomenon, the plight of the Orang Asal and Orang Asli, the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA’63), the existence of Malay MyKad among those not eligible, Bahasa Melayu vs Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia, the English language in court, Sarawak’s and Singapore’s loss of sovereignty i.e. the government not having changed since 1966 and 1959; electoral integrity, election runoffs, local gov’t elections, the election of the Prime Minister by Parliament, the Cabinet System, Prime Ministerial Dictatorship, degeneration of Bumiputeraism into euphemism, political personality cults, political parties, party politics, and tribalism and feudalism —  read race and religion, preaching hate — under the guise of democracy.

There should be reforms in law education. There’s no emphasis on acquiring courtroom skills through mentorship programmes. Nothing succeeds like success. There are hardly any novel developments in Malaysia that the court can declare as law. The media acts as the proverbial three monkeys on this glaring omission, the three blind men with the elephant and the ostrich with heads buried in the sand or otherwise looking the other way. – New Malaysia Herald

About the writer: Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez keeps a keen eye on Malaysia as a legal scholar (jurist). He was formerly Chief Editor of Sabah Times. He’s not to be mistaken for a namesake previously with Daily Express. References to his blog articles can be found here.

The points expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.

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