Monday, August 14, 2006


Tetapi bukan sebarang KJ, sama ada yang saya kenali dari dekat atau jauh, tetapi AKJ.

Saya bertemu dan mewawancara Datuk A Kadir Jasin hari ini untuk artikel saya di mStar Online. Atau, jika anda malas melihat iklan "orang kuning", sila klik di sini mStar Online (tanpa iklan).

Turut diwawancara, Ahirudin Attan (aka Rocky), seorang lagi wartawan kanan kumpulan NSTP, selain pengulas isu-isu politik semasa James Wong Wing On.

Ketiga-tiga mereka memiliki blog.

Setakat hari ini belum diterbitkan walau lebih separuh sudah siap. Tunggu kemunculannya di mStar Online! Sementara itu, boleh baca berita-berita lain dulu ... atau artikel-artikel saya yang lepas di Pojok mStar Online.


Yang menarik perhatian saya di blog AKJ, tulisan ini 'Khairy's influence' pada 10 Ogos:

Way back in 1999**, I allowed to be published in the New Sunday Times an article by commentator Askiah Adam, that described the Umno Supreme Council’s decision to disallow contest for the post of President and Deputy President as dereliction of duty.

Well, it was one of those more costly “publish and be damned” decisions that I had made. I paid the price.

Catatan ini, dan juga wawancara dengan AKJ tadi, mengingatkan saya pada Askiah sewaktu kami menghabiskan masa di Jakarta -- dan sewaktu saya (kami bertiga makan malam, termasuk seorang teman dari Thailand) meratah burung dara di sebuah restoran berprestij. Terima kasih, Askiah!

** seingat saya artikel ini terbit dalam NST pada tahun 2000, bukan 1999 seperti catatan Datuk.


fathi aris omar said...

Ya, memang betul.

Saya semak tadi, artikel tersebut disiarkan di NST pada 8 Januari dengan tajuk "Second opinion: Why deputy presidency must be contested"

(lihat Editorial, Asian Times Online, 22 Januari 2000 seperti teks lengkap di bawah)

Malaysia: Silencing the press sure to backfire

News item: The editor-in-chief of Malaysia's largest newspaper group - allegedly ousted after falling foul of prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad - stayed silent Thursday about the controversy. Kadir Jasin confirmed he had gone on six months' leave from Tuesday but declined to comment on reports that he had either been fired or stepped down after 14 years at the helm of the New Straits Times Press group. ''I don't want to say anything. I have no comments at this moment,'' Kadir told AFP. - KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 (AFP).

Having Kadir stay silent, of course, will have been precisely the purpose of the bosses of the United Malays National Organization - Mahathir's political party - who exercise financial and political control at the NST and sacked him. Nor are such blatant attempts to curtail press freedom anything new in Malaysia. Ahmad Nazri Abdullah, editor of the NST group's Malay-language daily Berita Harian, was forced to resign in July 1998 after a series of run-ins with Dr Mahathir. The editor-in-chief of rival newspaper Utusan Malaysia also resigned at the same time for similar reasons. Both men were seen as too close to then-deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, who himself got the axe in September 1998.

What precipitated Kadir's silencing was by any standards other than Malaysian (at any rate among countries claiming formal adherence to democratic rule and principles) a minor matter: he had permitted publication of a January 8 commentary by Askiah Adam titled ''Second opinion: Why deputy presidency must be contested'', which attacked the earlier decision of the Umno Supreme Council not to have the number 1 and number 2 Umno posts contested in May party elections in the interest of party unity. And what's ironic about the Kadir ouster is that previous to the January 8 incident he had if anything gone overboard in his own columns in praising Umno and Mahathir - to the point that ever fewer readers bought the NST, saw it as merely an Umno propaganda sheet, and turned to Harakah, the newspaper of the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS). So, pity poor old Kadir who found himself in a catch-22 situation. Criticized by Umno for not effectively presenting the party position in advance of the November 29 elections and for loss of circulation, he decided to loosen the reins a bit and let a bit of real journalism creep into the NST. But as soon as he did it, he found himself on the outs with the powers that be.

But ultimately, hapless Kadir and his fate are not the issue. His sidelining had been preceded by the arrest of opposition leaders on spurious charges of violating the catch-all Sedition Act, an ever effective tool in silencing opposition criticism of government conduct. In combination with Umno control of major media, the act shuts out most if not all public debate of government policy. What puzzles us is what Dr Mahathir and his Umno cohorts think they have to fear from such debate and why they think that heavy-handed silencing of it would be to their advantage.

After a dismal year of economic downturn that Malaysia shared with other East Asian crisis nations, the economy has made a faster and stronger recovery than most, the government included, had expected. Previous to the Asian crisis, Malaysia had built up the infrastructure and taken the steps in educational policy that positioned it well for transition from low-cost contract manufacturing and commodity exports to a higher-technology economic regime and successful entry into the Internet economy. No fractious social issues threatening the unity and fast progress of the nation were in evidence. A loosening up of the political reins could readily have gone hand in hand with economic progress and reinforced it, building a more self-confident and productive middle class.

In his speeches and writings, Prime Minister Mahathir has time and again and rightly warned that only a turn to radical fundamentalist Islam would pose a threat to Malaysia's longer-term well being. But with his political strong-arm tactics he has precisely alienated and is continuing to alienate exactly those layers of Malaysian society that would be his natural allies in forestalling Islamist reaction. Rather than himself championing further development of democratic forms and institutions, he is in the process of handing over that badge of honor to an opposition the majority of which in fact has written imposition of Islamic law on its banner. For a man of his political savvy, this is an astonishing lapse and will only hasten the advent of conflict he seems so anxious to avoid.

We have admired the good doctor, warts and all, for the leadership he has exercised in guiding Malaysian society and the country's economy to the point it has now reached. But he is now in danger of jeopardizing those accomplishments precisely by seeing and making enemies in the camp he should further empower to successfully complete the final lap to his 2020 vision of fully-developed nation status. He will have had time to contemplate such issues during his current vacation. Upon his return in early February in time to participate in Chinese New Year celebrations he may see fit to change course. In the meantime, we endorse the call by opposition leader and Democratic Action Party chairman Lim Kit Siang on Malaysian journalists ''to take a stand to demand press freedom''. It's what Mahathir himself should demand - if only to relieve the boredom the mainstream Malaysian press otherwise so effectively induces.

Anonymous said...

Malaysians Turn to The Sun
How a newspaper tapped changing attitudes

The saga of Anwar Ibrahim may have just about disappeared from the pages of Malaysia's newspapers, but from his prison cell the former deputy premier is still shaping some publications' fortunes. The main loser, in circulation terms, has been the pro-government New Straits Times, which has paid the price for misreading the public mood about Anwar's dismissal and prosecution. The winner is the uppity, though still conservative The Sun, which has jumped into the middle ground vacated by the mainstream press.

Says Zaharom Nain, lecturer in Communication Studies at the Science University of Malaysia: "Some people switched to The Sun after the sacking of Anwar out of disgust with the way things were depicted in the mainstream media. The credibility of the Malaysian media is at its lowest. Readers are very cynical and want more critical reports, analysis and transparency — not just toeing the government line."

Launched in 1993, The Sun has been steadily increasing its readership and influence. Circulation rose from an average of 77,328 in June 1997 to 82,474 in June 1999 — a period that covers some of the major early moments of the Anwar drama. By comparison, sales of the 150-year-old New Straits Times (NST) daily fell from 163,287 to 139,001 in the same period. Sunday circulation dropped back from 186,918 to 161,948. Sales of the 29-year-old Star daily and Sunday were 235,641 and 262,306, respectively, in June 1999, both up.

The Sun is hoping to grow further this year. In changes that began in February, the tabloid has a new editor-in-chief (Ho Kay Tat), a new managing director (Tan Boon Kean), new owners (subject to approval, Phileo Allied's Tong Kooi Ong is taking over) and a new look (introduced in June for the Sunday edition and in August for the daily). "Give us one year for circulation to top 100,000," says managing director Tan. Michael Yeoh, CEO of the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, also sees strong growth ahead. "The Sun has the potential to overtake the NST and could be a strong rival to the Star over the next five years," he says.

Sun executives believe expectations of what the media should be delivering have changed since the advent of straight-talking online publications such as Malaysiakini and Agenda Malaysia, which are not subject to government censorship. Sun readers are offered a wide range of opinions, particularly in the Sunday edition's Comment & Analysis section.

On Sept. 24, think-tanker Abdul Razak Baginda called for less crowing and a better sense of proportion about Malaysian achievements, lecturer and former merchant banker Radzuan Halim urged a cap on defamation awards, and social psychologist Askiah Adam declared that there was "no need" for a proposed Restoration of Islamic Faith Bill, which penalizes "deviationism" and apostasy. A week earlier, lawyer Karim Raslan had warned of "a fate that must not happen to us" — referring to Iranian and Pakistani friends' complaints about "embattled and deeply corrupt secular administrations clinging onto power, emboldened clerics and independent institutions crumbling under the weight of an unbridled executive."

Syed Arabi Idid, a professor in the Communication Department at the International Islamic University of Malaysia, describes The Sun as "slightly better" than the mainstreamers on political coverage. He calculates that during last November's general elections, the NST and Star devoted 80% of their space to the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. With The Sun, it was about 70% — not exactly balanced, but in a country where papers are sometimes craven in their support of the government, it almost passes as even-handed.

Editor-in-chief Ho says: "We try to report the news and avoid mixing editorializing with reporting. We know where the limits are. We try to push them but we also know when not to push." He admits to occasional "run-ins" with the owners over the treatment of certain stories, but insists the proprietors are not involved in day-to-day editorial operations. But the owners are not the only people the editorial bosses have to take into account. Newspapers are constrained by a yearly license required from the Home Ministry. And that can be a problem — as feisty alternative publications Ekslusif, Detik and Al-Wasilah found out. They went out of business this year when their licenses were not renewed.

If The Sun can avoid that kind of fate, its future may be shining bright. Lawyer Karim believes that once Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad leaves the political stage, the mainstream media will "take a big thwacking from the market." Ho says all he is thinking about is providing a new product for a new generation of Malaysians. But if Karim's prediction is proved correct, then The Sun will truly rise.