Biased TV news segment stokes racial sentiments

Mustafa K. Anuar

Astro news channel Awesome TV has apparently shown racial bias by encouraging Malays to come out in full force to vote to prevent non-Malays from supposedly taking power, a narrative that is deeply divisive to local harmony. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 7, 2022.

THE racial bias shown in its Berita 7:57 bulletin—which irked many Malaysians—makes you wonder whether Awesome TV is aware that it has crossed a line. 

Anyone deeply affected by the racist editorial stance has a right to call the news channel out.  

This is because it had encouraged Malays to come out in full force to vote to prevent non-Malays from supposedly taking power.  

Such a narrative clearly contrasts with one that would focus on encouraging eligible voters, irrespective of ethnic or religious backgrounds, to exercise their democratic right to vote.  

On November 3, the TV channel’s two news anchors brashly called on Malay voters to fulfil their duty to prevent the rise of non-Malay politicians. 

“All Malay voters must vote to fulfil their civic duty if they don’t want political power to be controlled by other races… (such as) if Pakatan Harapan (PH) were to win,” said one of them. 

“If Malays don’t vote, politicians who should not hold power will come into power and marginalise Malay rights.” 

This editorial slant is not only offensive to the non-Malays, but also divisive as it has the effect of driving a wedge between ethnic communities that form part of the collective called Keluarga Malaysia, as envisaged by caretaker Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.  

To cut to the chase, non-Malays have been made out to be a large group that has dark designs against the Malays, which could reinforce the siege mentality that has been haunting some Malays over the years. 

To be sure, we are talking about a contemporary Malaysia after more than 60 years of political independence, where interracial suspicion lurks.

The news anchors were also unethical and unfair towards Pakatan Harapan because the coalition was characterised as having elements who would jeopardise the interests of the Malay community if it came to power again. 

It would appear that the news channel has promoted a political narrative that runs parallel to those pedalled by certain politicians and political parties: the mantra of race and religion, part of their old playbook. 

For the uninitiated, the news channel that has courted the controversy is, according to a Harian Metro report, managed by seasoned professionals, that is, Chief Operations Officer Mazlan Mahdi and Chief Editor of 757 News, Yushaimi Yahaya. 

Mazlan has more than 20 years of working experience in the area of broadcasting, where he was involved in the development, implementation, and operation of digital TV infrastructure. 

Yushaimi has 30 years of experience in the country’s media industry, particularly in journalism, where he was the Chief Operations Officer of the New Straits Times Press, and former Chief Editor of the Malay Mail and Advisor to the Redberry Media Group. 

It is feared that as we approach the polls, there are certain elements in the political arena who would be tempted to exploit this kind of dangerous narrative for their own political gain. 

Given the seriousness of this issue, it is imperative that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission nip it in the bud. 

The media have an important role to play in enlightening the electorate about the political agenda of the competing parties pertaining to such important issues as the economy, costs of living, health, education, and the environment. 

Creating suspicion between ethnic communities is certainly not its role. – November 7, 2022.  

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