Back home in Malaysia, the Sunday front pages are dominated by headlines like “Political Tsunami”, “BN Rocked” and “3 Negeri Dirampas” (3 States Stolen).
Not a surprise, really.
But when SBS World News Australia featured the 2008 Malaysian Election as the breaking news, I was compelled to listen intently. It’s not every day that Malaysian news preceeds hot topics in Australia, which include the dying support for Brendan Nelson, the resignation of the Serbian PM, the discovery of Ned Kelly’s bones and the US Election race.
SBS even invited John Walker, a political analyst in UNSW to give his two cents on the matter. His opinion covered up pretty much the crux of the matter—Barisan Nasional (BN) has failed to cling to Kelantan, and even more damaging was the loss of another 4 states, which would grant the opposition access to various resources.
When asked whether the election result is a response of public’s disapproval against the government, or that the public has found a better representation in the opposition, he was quick to point out that it was an effect of both.
He commentated that the opposition’s surging reputation was gained much through what he called the “Anwar Ibrahim factor”, being the charismatic leader with a dramatic past who appealed to the different races. He also commented on the “Mahathir factor”—which differs from the “Faktor Mahathir” brought up by the Vice President of PAS—where the current government is less authoritarian than Mahathir’s, thus inevitably garnering less support from public.
On the other presses though, the news of Malaysian election is just another world story. Most newspapers’ websites share the same news by Reuters and AFP, which mainly focused on the uncertainty of Abdullah’s post as the Prime Minister and leader of the BN. The other popular topics seems to be the victory speech given by the poster boy of reformation, Anwar Ibrahim and his daughter Nurul Izzah’s win over BN’s Shahrizat in Lembah Pantai constituency.
Talking about news, it’s pretty much a frustration to get in-depth news about critical issues in Malaysia. The only thing I can rely on is the newspapers’ websites, but the mainstream papers are inundated with pro-government views.
A lot of people urged me to read the opposition’s newspaper, Harakah. Is it any better? I can safely and soberly say no.
The news in Harakah are emotionally-charged, at times farcical, and most of the times read like a tabloid. It is as biased, and content-wise, even worse than the mainstream papers.
A problem with press in Malaysia is not the blatant backing of government, it’s the unavailability of unbiased, reputable, easily available, and even free reporting.
The blogs are just, well, blog. It’s written , most of the time, from the point of view of one individual. There are just times when you don’t really want to take a pinch of salt with everything you’re reading.
Malaysiakini is not free, although it was for the last week before election, a move which I totally commend. To add insult to the injury, it was offline for a whole day, today, when the people really needs the refreshing news the most.
You really can’t blame us who are overseas for not trying to find out what’s happening back home. It is THAT hard.