Friday, 18 June 2010

The Woes of being a journalist

Columnists :: Citizen Nades (R. Nadeswaran ) of The Sun
The woes of being a journo

LABELLING of scribes is a common pastime in the Malaysian context, especially when it comes to creating affiliations with politicians and political parties. "Don't waste your time talking to him, he's a diehard so-and-so man," they would say. "He's a good friend of the boss. He won't buy your side of the story," is another often-used description. When a scribe writes something favourable about someone or some party, he or she is labelled as "returning the favour for putting him there".

When this scribe wrote about the wrongs of the previous Selangor administration, the labelling was that "he is anti-government". Even two no-holds barred meetings with the then mentri besar, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, did not change the perception. Accusations were that I had been pursuing an agenda. "What agenda?" was the question. There was silence. "I did not ask you for land; I did not ask you for licences, so what agenda are you talking about?"

"No, the way you write your stories, you give the impression that you have an agenda against us," came the reply. Doesn't anyone see the need for the media to be the eyes and ears of the people and highlight issues that affect the community? Doesn't anyone accept the fact that some issues are addressed only after the media publicise them? Doesn't anyone understand the role of the media in the democratic system?

For the past two weeks, I have been receiving email and calls from friends on the reports and commentaries on the abuses of the low-cost housing system. Yes, I make no bones about having taken a strong stand that these houses should only be sold to those who deserve them – not council staff, not cronies and hangers-on, not politically-connected people. This view has been the stand from Day One when theSun broke the story on how the director of planning in the Petaling Jaya City Council acquired a unit.

Since then, this story has been under our radar, and at every possible instance, we have pushed for full disclosure, including making public the list of recipients of low-cost housing. So, when questions like "Why are you going after the mentri besar (Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim)" are asked, I can only be amazed. Is it my fault that he shot himself in the foot by saying it "is legally not wrong but morally not right"?

"They have only ruled the state for slightly over two years. You must give them a chance," they would say. Isn't that implying that they have yet to learn how to administer and rule? Even if granted, why make such statements which only reflect the state's stand on issues affecting the rakyat without getting more information on the matter.

I take the view that a wrong is wrong and it does not matter whether it was perpetuated by the past administration or condoned by the present one. There's no place for sentiments when it comes to issues affecting the people, their money and their livelihood. There will be no compromise when it comes to wrongdoers and their fallacies like being able to deduct household expenses to reach the threshold of RM2,500 to qualify for low-cost houses.

Therefore, many (falsely) assume that I am anti-this or anti-that, which is merely a figment of imagination of those who choose to affix such labels. I admit there are shortcomings in some of the issues that are addressed because of the information in hand or the lack of it.

Last week I received a letter (by registered mail) from a reader who was not happy with his investment in shares. The letter was a litany of claims and accusations. He called the following day to ask if I am "working on his letter". The reply was woefully blunt. "I have no clue as to what you are talking and I don't write business," he was told.

"Why can't you write about it? You are supposed to know about it," he said. Patience wore out and I had to scream that I am not the answer to all ills.

I have to admit that I pick and choose my battles. I only take on issues in which I have knowledge or where possible, I am able to get additional information to write an authoritative report.

So, dear readers, please bear with me. I am not the answer to all the ills that afflict this country and its citizens. I am just another voice presenting my thoughts, views and sometimes suggestions on issues that can help create a better quality of life for all Malaysians.
The writer is willing to accept criticism based on facts, not assumptions. Comments:

My Say: I had the golden opportunity to work under Mr Nades in the New Straits Times, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. Whern he left NST to read law in London, I was also in London being NST correspondent for UK. He always visited me and my family at Chapelside, Bayswater, London.

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