Is This the Standard of Journalism in the New Straits Times Today?

By Malaysian Heart

The very nature of criminal investigations: the secrecy, the power differentials involved, our unfortunate history of deaths in custody, and the inescapable fact that whatever was done to Teoh was done in OUR NAME, makes it absolutely vital that we actively get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding Teoh's death. Asking the tough questions and being skeptical about the answers we are given is not lynching, it is merely demanding accountability from our public servants.

(Disclosure: I am a member of Hartal MSM, an advocacy group that calls for a Paper-free Tuesday — "No buy, No lies". * Hartal MSM is a mediawatch group which had its beginnings in December 2007 in the People's Parliament, an initiative convened by civil rights lawyer Haris Ibrahim. The group seeks to promote a free and fair media as an impetus to Malaysia's stalled nation-building process.)

When a news organization's editorial policy is dictated by its owners, the quality of its journalism is often the first thing to go out the window (followed closely by its credibility, reputation and circulation figures). The general level of integrity and professionalism in our news media notwithstanding, I have to say that this "online exclusive" op-ed piece from the New Straits Times (22/7/09), entitled "They got their Royal Commission of Inquiry but will they stop their lynching?", is as egregious a case of journalistic misconduct as I have ever come across. Lest I be accused of making that claim just because I disagree with the article in question, please allow me share with you my reasons for saying so:

The rest of the article continues below:
1) The writer made a significant error of fact by claiming that the purpose of the Royal Commission of Inquiry was "to probe the chary [sic] death of Teoh Boon Hock".

This is untrue because, as PM Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak himself said (bold emphasis mine): "The Royal Commission will be set up according to specific terms, which is to scrutinise and study the procedures related to interrogations that are used by the MACC. It will also identify if there were any violations of human rights during Teoh’s interrogation."

The PM also made it clear that Teoh's death would be investigated by an inquest and not the RCI. This is definitely not what Teoh's family, Pakatan Rakyat leaders and many others have been asking for from the outset.

Why is this error significant? Because the writer then went on to use his "fact" to attack the character and motives of Pakatan Rakyat leaders throughout the article, beginning from the headline itself. A major thrust of the article is to show that even when their demands have been met, PR leaders (ostensibly for selfish political reasons), will continue to criticize the RCI. It should have been quite obvious to the writer that their (and many others') demands were not met. He has misrepresented their position, and as of 1650 hrs on 24/7/09, this remains uncorrected.

Read more at: