It is sad to see The Malaysian Insider (TMI) go. For all its faults, TMI was a stellar news portal.
On a personal front, TMI has always given room to Malaysians like myself and a number of personal friends to publish their thoughts and views to a readership size that otherwise would have been difficult for us to reach. For this, I will always be grateful.
TMI’s critics have long questioned TMI’s objectivity in its reporting due to its anti-establishment nature. I believe that from the get go, it had been made clear that TMI would take a position that was more inclined towards the opposition, a move which frankly is no different from the mainstream media that continues to pump government-biased propaganda through the broadsheets and our television screens.
This in itself is not idiosyncratic to Malaysia. News outlets around the world frequently take sides – be it along party or ideological lines – to further some sort of agenda or position on issues.
In the UK, the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator take an unabashedly right-wing stance on issues, while the Guardian and the New Statesman have long been the go-to newspapers for those inclined towards the left.
With this split in ideology, battles between politicians and the press have long been part and parcel of politics.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair’s ex-spin doctor Alastair Campbell has spoken openly about his battles with The Sun and the Daily Telegraph. In fact there’s a video on YouTube with him doing a battle with Sky News anchorman Adam Boulton, accusing him of taking a biased position against the then prime minister Gordon Brown.
A point to make here is that people in politics and in the media don’t often see eye to eye, especially if they advocate different positions. Disagreements happen and they sometimes get heated or nasty, a fact of life that our politicians have yet to wake up to.
The alternative media has not been without its faults. Indeed, TMI has been guilty of half-truths and sensational headlines, just as how the mainstream media has erred time and time again through the spouting of ultra-Malay rhetoric from papers such as Utusan Malaysia.
This is why alternatives matter. In a free society, it’s up to Malaysians to make their minds up and distinguish between half-truths and truths and to be able to censure politicians and journalists who are guilty of transgressions.
Hence, why the recent abuse of state power to silence critics and shut down media portals is uncalled for. The media is supposed to provide a check to governments just as how the journalists from the Boston Globe in the Oscar-winning movie "Spotlight" exposed a scandal involving the cover up of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.
Nobody holds a monopoly on the truth. Not politicians, not any single media outlet nor NGO’s. For any democracy to thrive, a diverse set of views is needed just as how you need competing political parties. Having alternative media sites is important in this respect.
We are going through challenging times and Malaysia is in need of a process of moral renewal. Our democratic and civic institutions must reflect the value system of a free society. This cannot be achieved by sweeping uncomfortable truths under a carpet or silencing critics. Thus, it is such a shame that TMI will have to go.
Ultimately, history will be kind to TMI. Its establishment presaged a new wave of unfettered news that was more independent and more aligned with urban Malaysia’s sensibilities. A breath of fresh air, following decades of government controlled media reporting.
It’s been a great eight years. And I believe that I am not alone in saying that the editorials, headlines and commentaries will be missed. With this, I bid goodbye.
Thanks for the good times. – March 14, 2016.
* Adam Reza reads The Malaysian Insider.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.