Telling fact from fiction online

By Terence Fernandez, TheSun

IMITATION they say is the best form of flattery. But there is nothing to gloat about events over the past week. A “news” portal called Malaysia-Instinct had posted reports with my byline, albeit with a slight alteration to the spelling of my name – “Terrence” instead of Terence.

It carried at least two reports; one so-called “expose” on blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK)’s mental health and another one questioning the Chinese community’s allegiance to the nation.

I lodged a report at the Petaling Jaya police headquarters on Sept 9. Another one will be lodged with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission as soon as I return from abroad later this week. I will leave the matter in the good hands of the authorities.

I would like to thank those who had defended me and tried to set the record straight, including RPK, as well as Petaling Jaya police chief ACP Arjunaidi Mohamed and his team.

I had gone to the station a little before buka puasa. Despite this and being the eve of Hari Raya, the police officers went out of their way to attend to me.

I would also like to record my appreciation to readers who alerted me to these articles and am thankful that many of you are discerning enough to know that theSun and I do not subscribe to personal attacks.

However, to those who posted hateful comments, like one reader who threatened to stop his subscription to theSun, all I can say is check your facts and give people the benefit of the doubt.

The Internet has become a playground of spin doctors (on both sides of the divide), hate mongers and scandal lovers. So much so, to the uninitiated, it is very difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction. Sadly, some people rather believe juicy gossip than dry facts.

The public who are hungry for news that is conspicuously missing in the mainstream press resort to the web for what they perceive to be real news. Hence the flourishing of anti-government blogs and the mushrooming of news portals.

The mainstream media should be allowed to do its job unhindered where reporters can go about their jobs without being harassed; and the renewal of the annual publishing permit is not at the back of the mind of editors and media owners when deciding whether to publish reports.

You cannot blame the public for accusing a section of the mainstream press of being mouthpieces of politicians and vested groups.

The media irrespective of its medium must be allowed to be informative and critical. Only then will it be credible – even during instances when it heaps praises on the government of the day.

Having said that, the present administration must be commended for in some ways continuing the policies of the previous one in loosening controls on the press. Otherwise, how could we expose such shenanigans like the Port Klang Free Zone scandal with its high-profile players?

One must understand that mainstream should not mean “controlled”. In the ideal environment it means a media that reports responsibly where criticisms are not viewed as attacks on the administration but alternative views that help in nation building.

At the end of the day, a responsible media serves the public interest not that of any individual holding a grudge.

If the mainstream press is allowed to do its job unhindered, then perhaps the powers that be will be doing themselves a favour by drawing the news-starved public away from alternative ones whose credibility is suspect.