Bernama’s credibility

By The Malaysian Insider

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim took exception to state news agency Bernama’s coverage of his speech in Alor Star yesterday, in which it reported that he wanted a discussion with Datuk Seri Najib Razak instead of a debate.

This, after the two letters the PKR de facto leader had sent to the prime minister, inviting him to debate about the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) 100-day programme.

Whether Najib will eventually take up the challenge and make Anwar break into a “fever” is another question.

What is in question is Bernama’s coverage of Anwar’s comments.

The state news agency did not skip a beat and reported Anwar’s objection to the reporting but made no attempt to say its report was wrong.

Unlike the July 24, 2010, article that made Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng livid when the national news agency filed a story with an incomplete quote and suggested, when it was not so, that he had accepted in good faith a reproach from the prime minister and deputy prime minister.

Bernama later apologised for the mistake.

Is there a pattern to Bernama’s reporting that upsets only one bench in Parliament? After all, it is a federally-funded news organisation that must serve Malaysia, not just the government of the day.

Its duty is to report accurately and impartially, not to favour the ruling government over its political foes.

Bernama has to be careful about its role. Its reporting is used by almost all media organisations in Malaysia and also by foreign news agencies and newspapers such as Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Kyodo, and Bloombery, to name a few.

And it counts The Malaysian Insider and other news portals as its clients.