Front Page Blunder Causes Uproar

Over the weekend, politicians and NGOs from all quarters (PKR, PAS, AMANAH, UMNO and Perkasa just to name a few) condemned The Star newspaper following a front-page blunder displayed a photograph of Muslims performing the ‘terawih’ prayers on the eve of Ramadan while the headline read ”Malaysian Terrorist Leader”.

The Home Ministry will summon The Star’s Editor-in-Chief today to give an explanation on the matter that is allegedly insensitive to the feelings of Muslims. Its secretary-general Datuk Seri Alwi Ibrahim said the Ministry was disappointed with the daily due to the fact that the ministry had just recently called a meeting with editors from several local daily on May 23 to give guidelines on publications.

Furthermore, this was the second time The Star has been called up to explain articles and photos used in the Ramadan fasting month; where in 2011, it was given a ‘warning letter’ by the Ministry for including a “pork-fest” in that year’s Ramadan supplement.

Although the paper was quick to apologize for its front page, blaming on “hindsight” and an “unfortunate coincidence”, for a mainstream newspaper that has been printing out daily for over 46 years, it should have been more religiously and culturally sensitive on the matter.

You could argue that Malaysians, regardless of race, be it Malays, Chinese, Indians or Bumiputera, are becoming more aware and sensitive to what is written or shown in the media. Case in point, the recent Primeworks Studios – Watson Nyambek incident where in the aftermath, the “Sukan Tak Sentral” programme was pulled off air indefinitely and the programme’s host, producer and seven production crew was suspended by Primeworks.

This and many other instances where news and video clips published online has caused heated arguments, lawsuits and even fighting amongst fellow Malaysians is a thing of worry in this day and age where news travels fast and ‘fake news’ travels even faster.

Journalist and editors of mainstream media (printed or electronic) adhere to the journalism ethics, professional integrity and principles; truth and accuracy, independent, fairness and impartiality, humanity and accountability. However, ‘human factor’, ‘saleability’ and ‘dollar-and-cents’ does play a role in how the journalist narrate the news.

On the flip side, bloggers and social media writers are not bonded by the same principles and have a tendency to narrate emotionally and irresponsibly, focusing on sensationalization, exaggeration and fabricating ‘fake news’ just to get more Likes and cyber followers. In a world where almost 2/3 of the world’s population is connected, these types of narrative can cause chaos and can be very damaging if taken out of context.

It is best to remind ourselves that not everything we read in the internet is true, and we sometimes have to take even the mainstream news media with a pinch of salt. The best thing is to think rationally on what we read and see on the internet and don’t let our emotions get the best of us.

Personally, editors of The Sun should issue out a more sincere and heartfelt apology as it is quite an ‘oversight’ by them to make such an obvious mistake. You can’t take back words that has been spoken (or printed), especially if it’s the type that touches on the RRP (race, religion, politics).

Since it’s the holy month of Ramadhan, why don’t we forgive and learn from our mistakes, and keep Malaysia safe, peaceful and in harmony.