Elections are great events for media-especially on-line media that have advantages over restricted mainstream media. Readership will shoot up to cloud 9 whenever a `scoop’ is found by a media during elections. So it is not surprising that the competitive on-line media has started its version of verbal tussles ahead of the poll to position each other as the better source of news. The most recent `action’ is the insinuation by Malaysian Insider that that long time indie media Malaysiakini is `talking’ to BN friendly Malay mail. While the talk can be any harmless thing, the MI insinuate that it can be a share swap -no evidence provided by such a `credible’ media- that could undermine the independence of Malaysiakini-its rival! After the charge was denied the MI followed with another piece to claim that the `talk’ between Malaysiakini and Malay Mail had been confirmed by Malaysiakini! So: what is confirmed really, Malaysia Insider? The on-line media is not just doing `spinning’-it is making a serious charge after insinuating that there is a talk that will compromise Malaysiakini’s independence! It seems like a shit fight action where all rules are thrown out of the window!
After all the hoo ha Malaysiakini clarify that it is only talking to Malay Mail with intention of selling content to Malay Mail, if the deal come through. Malaysian Insider itself also sell its content to others-to a government owned propagandistic media in Singapore! Nothing was insinuated by anyone about this long-standing deal between Malaysian Insider and the media they sell their news to. So: why selling content by one media to a propagandistic government media is no good-but selling news by another media to similar outfit can be insinuated as something `evil’ to the extent of capable of compromising media independence? Look like the truth is sacrificed by a media in its quest to become the champion to provide `independent’ coverage for the imminent poll!
But the issue of independence is important: it is the selling point of Malaysiakini and many other on-line media. By this criteria: why is Malaysian Insider not willing to disclose its funder while kicking up a farce about another media trying to sell its content to survive? Is hypocricy part of the media survival game? Is Malaysian Insider so well funded that it can do without the various means other media have to go through to see their doors open for a long time to come? It is perhaps time that Malaysian Insider come clean on its funding source before it continue to cast doubt and insinuation on the cleanliness of the funding source of other media.
But this may not be the last point about the whole affairs.
Could there be a plot to discredit independent and critical media ahead of the 13th GE? Malaysian Insider is a middle of the road on-line media that do not provide opening to really critical commentaries in its tightly controlled space. Its selling point is indeed its `insider’ news from the government/ruling party side. No one need to raise doubt on its `independence’ when its reporters wheel and deal with government departments and crooked ruling politicians to get news -but it is clear that it is siding with the anti-critical independent media policy of the ruling party/government to get itself up in this fierce media competition ahead of the 13th GE! It is really bizarre to see some doubtful `bloggers'(or cyber troppers’?) so willing to hammer Malaysiakini just because of Malaysia Insiders’ insinuation. Did this same bloggers show themselves up at the various campaigns to fight for media independence throughout the years by media NGOs-since they are crying out as though they are the real champion of media independence?
Now the possible plot: could BN friendly Malay Mail pretend to buy news from Malaysiakini and then leak the info to the `well connected’ Malaysian Insider so that the `talk’ can be cooked into something sinister? The talk only get started and the news had been exposed-only an `insider’ job can guarantee such efficiency! Conspiracy theories abound ahead of general elections-this is as good as any other! So: at the end of the day the anti-free media ruling party will be the last one smiling when the on-line media-whether well-connected `insider’ or unconnected `outisder’, which had been targeting the `evil empire’, get busy to tear each other apart!
The story of Malaysian Chronicle in this episide is sadder due to the personal disputes between its head-reporter who left Malaysiakini on un-amicable terms. Is it their time to get back at Malaysiakini given an ounce of unsupported suspicion kicked up by Malaysian Insider? Malaysiakini is by no means perfect -but there is no reason to wreck it on spurious grounds when you cannot produce a better alternative!