30 Jan OPEN LETTER TO EDITORS OF THE STAR
THE MEDIA MUST STOP SENSATIONALISING THE NEWS AND NOT AVOID REAL ISSUES
I refer to the headline printed on the front page of yesterday’s (29 Jan) Star newspaper that reads ‘A Greed Tragedy’. The headline was about the tragic death of two women during a free food promotion programme for senior citizens in conjunction with Chinese New Year in Kuala Lumpur on Monday (28 Jan).
By using the word “greed” in the headline, the paper automatically implies that those who attended the event had insatiable, selfish desire for handouts. It also implies that these people do have enough money or food but are there for more. It takes away from the seriousness of the issue at hand, which is poverty, and dismisses the tragedy as merely a consequence of greed.
Poverty is a very real issue that many people Malaysians struggle with. If anything, the stampede on Monday tells us that we as Malaysians must do better to address the issue of poverty in this country. The tragedy also raises the question of elderly care and the challenges of an ageing society.
Blaming those involved in the stampede for being greedy is irresponsible and reflects appalling journalism.
This is not the first time that the Star has sensationalised its headlines in order to sell the news. Recent examples include calling the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day on 8 Dec a counter-rally to the ICERD rally; and the article on khalwat raids based on an interview with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religion), Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusuf Rawa titled ‘No More Moral Policing’ (Oct 6). I must insist that its editors be cautious and sensitive when doing so as it can be very misleading, raises misconceptions and tarnishes the image and reputation of others.
This was clearly seen when journalists covered the Education Minister and were fixated about unimportant things being said, such as, school shoes and swimming pools rather than writing about and questioning the value of the real structural and institutional reforms being proposed for education. Where were the questions on social integration of all schools in Malaysia when the Minister brought it up in Parliament?
More efforts should be made to ensure headlines are more reflective of the state of poverty in the country, and in particular, the neglect of the aged. Headlines are meant to draw attention to stakeholders, leaders and politicians on the extent of the problems. Some of the journalists seemingly are too ready to trade in complex narratives for simple, dramatic and entertaining stories.
Media freedom under the Pakatan Harapan Government is very precious and we are in an unique time where the media are accorded the opportunity to talk, investigate and highlight the issues that are plaguing our society.
The media must be reminded of its role as the fourth estate in upholding responsible and fair journalism and like the rest of us, be taken to task if they seemed to be more interested in creating inaccurate statements simply to get more clicks.
What’s more, it is a great disservice to the work of those journalists who have fought hard for press freedom and aimed to set greater standards of reporting for years.
Lastly, The Star needs to be more responsible with their headlines so that it does not end up creating villains and mislead its readers.
Maria Chin Abdullah
Petaling Jaya MP