Saturday, May 17, 2003

Media scanning: Sunday columnists etc

Catch of the Day. This Sunday, the 'Catch of the Day' must go to The Malay Mail editor, Akhirudin 'Rocky' Attan, who wrote in NST's Nuances:

Not that I ever thought those journalists of ours were not brave. I know all the journalists with Media Malaysia (JMTM?), some extremely well. [...]

They are not cowards but I also know that they are not the bravest people on earth. And they are not ashamed to tell you that they have fear in their hearts, too. [...]

For the Media Malaysia members whose courage has been questioned by some tough-talking politicians and fellow journalists (after it was reported that some of them wanted to return home following the abduction of Malaysian journalists near Baghdad), [...] Take photographer Anuar Hashim, one of the three journalists who survived the abduction, and political commentator Shamsul Akmar, who was condemned repeatedly by a certain Cabinet minister who was unhappy with an article the journalist wrote from Baghdad.

Instead of sticking to their brief (which was to go to Baghdad to report and take pictures and stay out of trouble), the two NST journalists also let their hearts go.

Little Yasmin Wa’adi, who lost both legs and a brother, is in Malaysia because Anuar and Shamsul thought they had to — could — do something for the poor girl.

Wouldn't it be fair to also give a mention to JMTM chef de mission Ahmad A. Talib for having played a part in bringing Ya Yasmin to Malaysian headlines? Don't rob him of his saving grace.

And please save us the agony of seeing Ya Yasmin being used to wag the dog.

Other pieces that I read this morning:

The Op-Ed Pages. Both Star executive editor Wong Chun Wai and NST assistant political editor Shamsul Akmar write on the looming general election.

Shamsul Akmar: NGOs and the polls game, in essence:
On the one hand, the Election Commission says non-governmental organisations registered under the Societies Act can contest in the next general election, provided they register with the EC. On the other, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said NGOs should not contest under the banner of their organisation but their members could do so individually. His deputy Abdullah Ahmad Badawi echoed the sentiment.

As in previous elections, most of the NGOs that threw their weight behind political parties do not subscribe to their ideologies. But they did it on the ground of better-the-political-devil-they-know. At the same time, most political parties are aware NGOs, given their small scope of causes, will never pose a threat to their existence.

This looks like Barisan Nasional is assured of a two-thirds majority despite the parliamentary seats having increased from 194 to 219.

Wong Chun Wai: Message goes out – get ready for polls, excerpts:
Over the past few weeks, the Prime Minister and his deputy have been dropping hints to Barisan component leaders to gear up for the elections. At the opening of the MIC general assembly, Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Barisan parties to resolve their internal bickering, if they have any.

MCA leaders would have to seriously examine their priorities, as well as that of Barisan, as the clock ticks away. They have to prove to the Chinese community that they can place the people’s interest first and that message would have to be emphasised at the general assembly.

The feud in the MCA has been a fight over party and government positions – nothing else. It is clear that the patience of Barisan elders is running thin and the MCA leaders must resolve their differences now.

Regrettably, little is expressly said of which faction is the feuding party for government position, and which one should initiate the overture towards stopping the fued. Or are we asking for the obvious?

The 3Cs of Malaysian politics. The NST runs an interesting editorial: Candidature for sale? It says the country's culture is being polluted by what is known as the 3Cs of politics: Connection, Clout and Cash.

The virus bred by the 3Cs is corruption. Excerpts:
In Malaysian politics, lobbying carries a narrow and perverse meaning.

We are referring to the peculiar brand of lobbyists in national politics. These are the people — mostly aspiring Yang Berhormat — who are quick to echo the views expressed by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, but they do little to champion economic and social justice issues. [...]

Although lobbying within bounds is acceptable, backroom politics need not be characterised by back-stabbing, wayang kulit and poison-pen letters. Apart from money politics, our political culture is tainted by the poison-pen letters — a practice increasingly seen in the MCA — which are nothing more but receptacles of conspiratorial evil against some national leaders and against one another. Any complaint of abuse of power against the leaders should be lodged with the authorities, not cowardly composed in unsigned epistles.

Rather than contributing to an unhealthy political culture, Umno and the BN components should engage with the grassroots and stabilise party membership and national support. More importantly, they should go beyond the present efforts in creating a framework to engage with the electorate. There is no single bullet solution to purge the BN of its inner contaminants. We believe the solution comes in the form of a wide-ranging and comprehensive reassessment of all aspects of its political framework and culture.

If you have not reached a fatigue level on meritocracy and Iraq, Meritocracy may not be the best but it still breeds more good than ill by NST's Weekend Guest, lawyer Loong Caesar, and Bombing court of public opinion by Star's associate editor Bunn Negara are two good reads, respectively.

You won't miss much if you did not read Sunday Star's editorial on anti-porn strategies, Munir Majid on problem-solving ala SARS-management, Ahmad A. Talib on US travel advisory on Malaysia, and Awang Selamat on SARS, UMNO-politics, conspiracy theory related to The Economist.

I admit there is a bias in my reading list this Sunday. As a news junkie, I can only like and dislike what I read.

Dollah Kok Lanas commenting on NY Times scam

Continuing the Blair saga. Is there a mirror somewhere at The NST newsroom for Dollah Kok Lanas to look at himself before he commented on The New York Times' Blair saga? I still want to believe that he wrote The Sunday Diarist column by himself.

More on this at the bottom half of this blog.

Re the New York Times' sacking of rogue reporter Jayson Blair, questions rival journalists asked is basically this: Did Blair’s race play a role in his treatment?

New York Times executive editor Howell Raines has finally answered the big question May 14, admitting he gave Blair, a black reporter, “one chance too many.”

“Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter. I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities….Does that mean I personally favored Jayson? Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes.”

Raines made known his stand in a town-hall-style meeting between New York Times employees and the newspaper's management about the Jayson Blair scandal. The unprecedented meeting was held at the Loews Astor Plaza (movie) Theatre, near NYT's West 43rd Street newsroom. The proceeding was reported - almost buried - on Page A31 of NYT, May 15.

Washington Post described the meeting as one that was "marked both by contrition on the part of the newspaper's top editors and angry exchanges in which they appeared testy and defensive."

Read the intrigues in this story by NY Times media writer Jacques Steinberg: Editor of Times Tells Staff He Accepts Blame for Fraud

But Washington Post's Howard Kurtz has a different perspective: To the Editors: How Could This Happen?

Raines said he would not resign as the newspaper's executive editor, but acknowledged that many reporters view him as "inaccessible" and "arrogant," and vowed to improve the newsroom climate.

The New York Times is a 152-year old newspaper. It has won an unprecedented seven Pulitzer Prizes this year.

Scene back home. Admittedly, this blog is intended for the reading pleasure of editors in the Malaysian press. They are the vanguards on whom we rely to uphold our journalistic veracity and hallmark, mindful of the fact that they have been holding up very well in the past.

Incredibly, Dollah Kok Lanas, whose newspaper was linked to the sacking of Rehman Rashid - who allegedly refused to continue ghost-writing his speeches - commented on the NYT debacle in his Sunday column today. I quote:
A ‘Huge Black Eye'. WILLIAM Safire says everyone at the New York Times is sickened at the way reporter Jayson Blair, a black, bet-rayed readers and editorial staff with his sustained deceit and plagiarism. The publisher of the 152-year-old newspaper said it had suffered "a huge black eye" and a low point in its history.

The 27-year-old reporter was given, says Safire, too many second chances by editors eager for the ambitious newsman to succeed. Rightist conservatives who hate the liberal-leaning NYT are up to their hips in schadenfreude (German, for the pleasure one takes in another's suffering).

How did it happen in the most allegedly rigorously-edited newspaper in the world despite plenty of warnings and complaints from colleagues? Self-examination is healthy, selfflagellation is not. To err is human, to forgive divine!

A huge audacity indeed, Tan Sri!

Media frauds and post-scandal profits

Scary but true. More to The New York Times' sacking of Jayson Blair whom the paper claimed to have 'committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud', including stealing material from other newspapers, falsifying stories, inventing quotes and lying about his whereabouts.

The guy is is taking steps to cash in on the scandal.

Daily News New York said Blair has hired literary agency David Vigliano Associates to explore book and TV deals. Besides, Blair has been approached by Ian Rae, the seasoned tabloid TV producer who created "A Current Affair", who offered him a TV project.

Turning tarnished journalistic veracity into post-scandal profits is not new in the US.

Five years ago, journalist Stephen Glass ('I lied for esteem') was sacked by The New Republic for falsified reporting. He has just come out with a novel published by Simon & Schuster, a Viacom company. The book is called "The Fabulist".

Subject matter? It's about a journalist with questionable ethics!

Thanks YW Loke for the pointer.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Malaysiakini links to Screenshots

Many thanks! Malaysiakini has put a frontpage link to this blog starting today. The URL:

A reader from Melbourne, Francis Foo, first made the proposition to Steven Gan, and the Editor has given his consent.

The immediate benefit is that Malaysiakini, with its substantial captured audience, will drive a lot of traffic to this blog.

Admittedly, gaining more eyeballs is a boon, but to put up with higher expectation of a wider audience will be a challenge.

Nevertheless, in the absence of blogs sponsored by mainstream media in Malaysia - in the likes of MSNBC, Guardian - it will surely help in expanding the blogosphere beyond Ooh Yeoh and Jeff Ooi and beyond Malaysiakini in the near future.

Please email me if you think I have said things wrongly. I am ready to eat humble pie and have eggs on my face if I boo-boo.

P/S: There will be light blogging in the next few days. I am travelling.

May 17: World Telecommunications Day

The world has changed, and is still changing drastically. I had a conversation with Yap Lih Huey of Star's BizWeek last week in conjunction with World Telecommunications Day tomorrow.

I shared with her some of my reflections on the convergent technologies that have totally changed our lives - private and business. I also talked about MCMC's illusive Broadband Master Plan, and the knowledge generation's expectations of it.

Yap has stayed and worked in Boston for a number of years before returning to Malaysia. She has seen how that change has taken place in the world's major knowledge capitals, and how it impacted global business, making it precariously dependent on ICT.

I do not know how much of my conversation with BizWeek gets into print tomorrow, tough. The editor has the final say.

NST's papers sideline Khir Toyo

No photo opps. Selangor menteri besar cum Malaysian Youth Council (MBM) president Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo doesn't seem to enjoy good press and photo opportunities in Dollah Kok Lanas' papers.

This is evident in the editorial treatment of the National Youth Day 2003 celebrations yesterday, themed "Driving the Nation's Excellence", throughout NST's stable of papers.

The New Straits Times features the event on its frontpage main story today, with a colour photo that shows the winners of the Youth Organisation Prime Award 2003. In the picture were just PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, UMNO Youth chief Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and MCA Youth chief Ong Tee Keat.

Berita Harian runs the story as a second headline on the frontpage today, and two other related stories on Page 9. Again, Khir Toyo is totally blocked out from the three colour photos it used.

The most noticeable swipe the NST group took on Khir Toyo was probably the one by The Malay Mail senior journalist V. Vasudevan: Be transparent. It spotlighted recent controversy over the award of prime land to the well-heeled and civil servants in Dengkil and Sepang that has triggered calls for more transparency in this sensitive matter.

Vasu secured four responses from prominent figures to support his story: Kuala Lumpur Society for Transparency and Integrity president Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim, Federation of Malaysia Consumers Association (FOMCA) president Prof Hamdan Adnan, Bandar Klang State Assemblyman Teng Chang Kim (the whistle-blower who exposed the land deals) and Serdang MP and former Exco member Yap Pian Hon.

According to the Malay Mail story, all except MP Yap said the awarding of state land to indivuduals - including the children of two Selangor exco members and the MB's driver, was lacking in transparency.

The story highlighted the fact that Khir Toyo had gone on record to say he wanted an enquiry into how the names of the recipients were leaked out. The Malay Mail asks: Why would there have to be an inquiry when Khir said the whole process was transparent?


Transparency is the operative word here as the current arrangements do not in any way enlighten people on how the public is awarded land.

When does a parcel of land become available to the public? How is the public to know when this happens?

What is the criteria for applicants? If Government servants are getting it, which category of Government servants is eligible?

Questions which are of interest to the public but have never been answered by the State Government.

It has been reported as recent as May 6 that the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) investigation into graft allegations against Khir Toyo is still in progress.

On May 4, Utusan Malaysia's Awang Selamat dispensed a prescription to Khir Toyo to rid off his headache: Be transparent.


Pada pandangan Awang, apa yang perlu diberi perhatian cuma satu perkara sahaja - ketelusan. [...]

Menteri Besar hendaklah boleh menjawab dengan penuh yakin jika timbul pertanyaan kenapa si anu dapat, si anu tidak. Atau, kenapa yang sudah lama menabur bakti tidak dapat, tapi yang baru pula dapat.

Utusan Malaysia today gave extensive coverage on the event, in Pages 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9. The only instance Khir Toyo has a photo opp was when he presented a RM300,000 mock-up on behalf of MBM to the PM, witnessed by Hishammuddin

In contrast, The Star uses a colour photo on Page 2 today, showing Khir Toyo and his wife and the First Couple and Hishammudin recorded at the Youth Day celebration at Putra Stadium.

It is a known fact that the paper has an excellent working relationship with the MB as evident - coincidental or otherwise - in Op-Ed pieces it published several weeks prior to a conferment of a datukship by the Selangor government to its senior editorial staffer.

Check here and here in The Star archive, or here in my blog.

You have to read in between the lines.

Catcha: Another (foot)print

Post Meridien? I wonder how many of you are aware of a new free magazine hitting the streets a couple of weeks ago? It's called PM magazine, 100% owned and published by Catcha Sdn Bhd. The publisher is CEO Patrick Grove, and Editor-in-Chief is Luke Elliot. Utusan Princorp handles the printing.

This title is in addition to Catcha's print product, Juice Weekly, targetting the swinging young crowd - and the cliched PMEBs - in market centres.

The confusing thing is in Page 3. PM's masthead says the magazine is a free monthly publication, while the Editor's Note says it's free every fortnight.

The inaugural issue of PM magazine was cover-dated April 23 - May 6. It featured lifestyle choices.

Revenue Stream. It's interesting how Catcha manages and derives its revenue-mix from online to print products. I am not sure whether the PM fortnightly will cannibalise the advertising money of its weekly JUICE, which is available on both sides of the Causeway.

There are 6 FPFC ads - oops... full-page full-colour - in the entire 48-page config. Nokia took up the backcover adspace while Citibank and Proton Iswara took the inside front/back covers, respectively. The rest are Heineken (Page 5), Coca-Cola (Page 21) and (Page 43) itself.

No ratecard or circulation figures were mentioned in the mag.

Contact PM 03-74909999 if you need information about the distribution channels for the next issue.

SARS: Death sentence for quarantine-violators in China

Tough measures for tough time. You'll need to understand the politico-bureaucratic-speak in China, but a death sentence is a death sentence.

Official Xinhua news agency announced yesterday that China is improving its legal system to cope with public health emergencies in the wake SARS epidermic.

Singapore Straits Times lifted an AFP story which said: China's judiciary issued an interpretation of the country's infectious diseases law on Thursday that calls for execution or life imprisonment for Sars patients who violate quarantine restrictions.


'Intentionally spreading sudden contagious disease pathogens that endangers public security or leads to serious personal injury, death or heavy loss of public or private property will be punishable by 10 years to life imprisonment or the death penalty,' Xinhua news agency said of the ruling.

The interpretation, issued by the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, went into effect on May 13, but was publicised in full in Thursday's Legal Daily.

As at yesterday, the nationwide SARS death toll in China has reached 271, and the cumulative number of cases has tottaled 5,163.

Thriving Malay adat

Beyond political divides. Despite the overpowering UMNO patronage system, I noticed many Malay dignitaries dare withstanding the nuances of political-correctness to ensure their adat thrive in their hearts.

Clearly, there are modern Malays who do not allow the divisive intra-Malay partisan politics to come in the way of cementing the silaturrahim among their brethren.

I understand it's customary that an invitation to a wedding kenduri must be returned with a personal attendance gracing the ceremony irrespective of personal differences and enmity.

Yesterday, I was shown photos of brave Melayu who graced the wedding reception of Anwar Ibrahim's eldest daughter, Nurul Izzah, May 9 through 11.

They included Managing Partner of Price Waterhouse International Raja Arshad Raja Sir Tun Uda Al Haj (who is the uncle to the Sultan of Selangor), former Tenaga Nasional CEO Ani Arope, former Kelantan menteri besar (UMNO) Mohamad Yaakob, veteran journalist A. Kadir Jasin and many others.

One striking sight was the wheelchair-ridden Siti Saleha Ali, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's sister-in-law, who also made it to the wedding reception.

I think UMNO's political ideology is dealt a defeat when there are people whose unknowing practice of the age-old pepatah Malayu has continued to breathe new life into the Malay custom: "Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat".

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

World Competitiveness Scorecard 2003:
Malaysia in Top 10 list among big population economies

In competitiveness, size does matter. Malaysia is ranked number 4, an improvement over last year's 6th position, in the World Competitiveness Scoreboard 2003 released today.

The World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY) - published by IMD Business School, University of Lausanne, Switzerland - presents the 2003 overall ranking for the 59 countries and regional economies..

This year, the WCY categorises economies into those with populations larger and smaller than 20 million people. It makes two key observations:

  1. In competitiveness, population size does matter as it accounts for differences even in a global world.

  2. Regional economies are new players in competitiveness since they develop a different profile from countries and seek more independence in the management of their competitiveness.

Top 10 economies with population exceeding 20 million are, by ranking, United States, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Germany, Taiwan, Britain, France, Spain and Thailand. (Japan is ranked 11th).

Top 10 economies with population smaller than 20 million are, by ranking, Finland, Singapore, Denmark, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Netherlands, Iceland and Austria. (Ireland is ranked 11th).

At a glance, most top-rankers are strong contenders in knowledge-based economy.

Presenting the World Competitiveness Landscape in 2003, Stö�ane Garelli, Director of the World Competitiveness Project and Professor at IMD Business School said the nations included in the are painfully emerging from two years of economic doldrums, which went beyond a mere technical market correction.

He outlined twelve scenarios that will define the competitiveness landscape in 2003:
  • Asia was picking up again, but the SARS epidemic may jeopardize the recovery.

  • Oil prices are back to reasonable prices ($24) after the Iraqi war.

  • US corporate debt has increased five-fold in 20 years. If interest rates go up again, many companies could go bankrupt.

  • The IT sector continues to consolidate and is no longer the locomotive of growth in the world economy. Will wireless be the next big hype?

Professor Garelli concludes his crystal ball gazing by focussing on competitiveness key words for 2003: Back to fundamentals, simple, solid, no-nonsense, adaptive, transparent, and honest.

Here's some reading materials:
Executive summary of WCY
WCY Overall Scoreboard
Ranking 2003
Past Rankings (1999-2003)
List of Economies
Competitiveness Factors
List of Criteria
Breakdown chart

Market size being a determinant of competitiveness has two facets. If managed poorly, having and feeding a big population will negate improvement of per capita income in a hypercompetitive global environment.

One caution: Our breed of politicians are easy prey for all things rhetorical. Malaysia should study the efficiency in its economy system rather than being carried away by the aggregate numbers. The battle for market dominance is out there on the global stage, never within the confines of domestic consumption and protectionism.

That is competitiveness in its actual sense.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

JMTM on Kit's radar screen

Screenshots spotted. An expose on media plagiarism in this blog was given a citation by Lim Kit Siang yesterday:

"Indefatigable blogger Jeff Ooi, has estimated that some RM8 million had been spent by the government for sending the Joint Media Team Malaysia (JMTM) to Baghdad, marred by “stealing, plagiarizing and spiking news” (, and he has been seeking to get the JMTM chef de mission, New Straits Times Group Editor Ahmad A. Talib to account for his leadership of the mission and the RM8 million expenditure of taxpayers’ money."

My take: Give us back the value for buying and reading newspapers. Let's forget about Media Council that Zainuddin Maidin has been advocating since 2001. It's hogwash.

Start with in-house ombudsman. I will blog on this extensively.

Flag-waving patriotism

Chinese-Malaysians get flak for not flying national flag. I just blogged about "flag-waving patriotism" among US media organisations just now. Here's a mutated form for Malaysia:

Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir has accused Chinese Malaysians of being unpatriotic for not flying the flag on Malaysia Day.

He claimed that more than 90 per cent of Chinese were indifferent to a government campaign to fly the flag every Aug 31.

At a press conference on Monday, he also acknowledged that even Malaysians were not as enthusiastic as he would like.

'Based on my own observation, only one out of every 30 motorists bothers to display the Malaysian flag on their vehicle, while only one out of every 20 home owners does,' he said.

'What caused me the greatest disappointment is the fact that 90 per cent of the Chinese residents...hardly ever fly the national flag.'

Read the Straits Times Singapore report before you read and the source at Sin Chew Daily, from which it developed the story.

A round-up of reaction form the Chinese-Malaysian community is available in The Star.

Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall chairman Ting Chee Seng accused the minister of generalising, saying: 'A small fraction of the Chinese community... does not represent the entire community.'

Lim Kit Siang has something to say, in English and Chinese. Kadir denies in Sin Chew and The Star that he has blamed Chinese-Malaysians for being unpatriotic.

Sin Chew has another opinion piece here: Kadir flogging a dead horse.

Oh yes, there won't be an UMNO re-election until the country's general election is over. But there could be a cabinet reshuffle come October.

The US media paradox

Doing what Bush has wanted. Economists Paul Krugman has this observation on media ownership in US under the present Bush Administration (NYT, May 13):

A funny thing happened during the Iraq war: many Americans turned to the BBC for their TV news. They were looking for an alternative point of view — something they couldn't find on domestic networks, which, in the words of the BBC's director general, "wrapped themselves in the American flag and substituted patriotism for impartiality."

Leave aside the rights and wrongs of the war itself, and consider the paradox. The BBC is owned by the British government, and one might have expected it to support that government's policies. In fact, however, it tried hard — too hard, its critics say — to stay impartial. America's TV networks are privately owned, yet they behaved like state-run media.

Krugman says the "flag-waving patriotism" has led to a new competition among privately-owned US media organisations. He said through policy decisions — especially, though not only, decisions involving media regulation — "the U.S. government can reward media companies that please it, punish those that don't. This gives private networks an incentive to curry favor with those in power."

He quoted a report by Stephen Labaton of The New York Times which illustrates the U.S. government's ability to reward media companies that do what it wants. The issue was a proposal by Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to relax regulations on media ownership. It received majority support from the Republican.

Lebaton described the US government's proposal, made official on May 13, as the most significant overhaul of its media ownership rules in a generation. It included a change that would allow television networks to own enough local stations to reach 90 percent of the nation's viewers.

To Krugman, it only means letting the bigger fish eat more of the smaller fish.

Food for thought for the print media owners here.

The meaning of American justice

UPDATE, 9.00am May 14: The Star: Three Malaysians suffered minor injuries in Riyadh bombings. The Malaysians were working in hotels and banks.

What American justice? The New York Times has this for its morning edition: Bush's message on taxes overshadowed by Saudi blasts. Another piece the paper shares with International Herald Tribune says: Attacks to prompt review of antiterror efforts.

US President George W Bush has denounced the Riyadh suicide bombers, vowing to hunt down those responsible for "the ruthless murder of innocent people".

Bush says those responsible will eventually learn the meaning of American justice.

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz says his country will deal harshly with anyone who tried to commit "terrorist acts" in the kingdom, warning that such "criminals" will never shake the unity of the Saudi nation.

Casualty reports have been erratic.

Australia's ABC News Online, updated on Wednesday, May 14, 2003. 7:52am (AEST): The US claims up to 90 people were killed in the attacks. The Saudi Ministry says those killed include one Australian, seven Saudis, seven Americans (VOA says 8), two Jordanian children, two Filipinos, a Lebanese and a Swiss, in addition to the nine charred bodies believed to be the attackers.

Morning edition of Straits Times Singapore today reported at least 29 people were killed and 200 others injured.

In the wake of initial confusion, again, what is American justice, Mr Bush? You breed contempt on the world. And contempt breeds contempt on you.

Riyadh blasts: What's the message?

Reprise or Preview? Three suicide bombings rocked Riyadh on the eve of US Secretary of State Colin Powell's 'Roadmap for Peace' visit to Saudi Arabia. What's the significance here?

An hour ago, Reuters reported 29 people, including ten Americans and many other foreigners, were killed and over 190 injured in three suicide bombings which targeted expatriate housing in Riyadh last night.

Saudi interior minister linked the attacks to the Al-Qaeda terror network, while Russia linked it to breakaway Chechnya. Powell renewed the US vow to track down militants of the Al-Qaeda network which also carried out the September 11 suicide hijackings in the United States in 2001.

Oil prices rose in Asian trading today and dealers are concerned that oil supplies from the Middle East could be disrupted.

Straits Times Singapore: At 12.16 pm (0416 GMT), US light sweet crude for June delivery traded at US$27.74 a barrel, up from its close of US$27.35 in New York on Monday.

The US remains a much hated nation. That seems to be the message transmitted from the heartland of US allies in the East.

The fear is, more are coming its way.

Media plagiarism: The rumbling...

Time for in-house Ombudsman. Continuing on the journalism scandal that has rocked The New York Times, America's most revered newspaper.

Read Oliver Burkeman's piece: 'All the news that's fit to print' - or so we thought' in Guardian.

Also read:

Payback time

Post-Saddam housekeeping. JORDAN: The US announced May 13 it will give Jordan $700 million to compensate it for the economic hardship caused by the war in neighbouring Iraq. It is Jordan's biggest cash injection from a Western donor in recent years.

IRAQ: L. Paul Bremer, the new American civilian administrator for Iraq, will face daunting tasks in Iraq: restoring security, power, clean water and other services to the Iraqis who demanded to have their country back.

Bremer will become the boss of the current U.S. administrator, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner. The latter has faced severe criticism in Iraq and ridicule in foreign capitals for his slowness in re-establishing public order, preventing looting and restoring utilities and other basic government services throughout the country.

ENGLAND: Clare Short resigned as the international development secretary and immediately urged Tony Blair to step down before the next election. Freed of restraints of office, she now beefed up her assault on the prime minister's style of leadership.

Here's Short's interview with Guardian and a nice cartoon by Steve Bell.

Monday, May 12, 2003

How NY Times saves its honour

Full disclosure. Is there a newspaper that dares to publish a detailed expose - on the frontpage - to vilify its own wrongs?

Yes, The New York Times.

Yesterday (May 11), it published a 7,500-word, 10-page special report: Correcting The Record, an 8-page sidebar: Witnesses and Documents Unveil Deceptions in a Reporter's Work, and a note from the Editor - just for one purpose.

To apologise to its readers.

Because an investigation conducted by the newspaper has discovered one of its reporters has 'committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud', including stealing material from other newspapers, inventing quotes and lying about his whereabouts.

The internal investigation, conducted by five Times reporters and a team of researchers over one week, found problems in at least 36 of the 73 articles written by journalist Jayson Blair, 27, from the time he began getting national reporting assignments in late October to his May 1 resignation.

The NYT described the episode as 'a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper'.

One chapter in the NYT admission, aptly titled The Deception, admitted to a "reporting process riddled with lies":

Mr. Blair's deceptive techniques flouted long-followed rules at The Times. The paper, concerned about maintaining its integrity among readers, tells its journalists to follow many guidelines as described in a memo on the newsroom's internal Web site. Among those guidelines: "When we use facts gathered by any other organization, we attribute them"; "writers at The Times are their own principal fact checkers and often their only ones"; "we should distinguish in print between personal interviews and telephone or e-mail interviews."

Another chapter, headlined: The Lessons: When Wrong, 'Get Right':
But (publisher) Mr. Sulzberger emphasized that as The New York Times continues to examine how its employees and readers were betrayed, there will be no newsroom search for scapegoats. [...]

(Executive editor) Mr. (Howell) Raines, who referred to the Blair episode as a "terrible mistake," said that in addition to correcting the record so badly corrupted by Mr. Blair, he planned to assign a task force of newsroom employees to identify lessons for the newspaper. He repeatedly quoted a lesson he said he learned long ago from A. M. Rosenthal, a former executive editor.

"When you're wrong in this profession, there is only one thing to do," he said. "And that is get right as fast as you can."

The Editor wrote in his note to the readers
The newspaper organized it in the belief that the appropriate corrective for flawed journalism is better journalism — accurate journalism. [...]

The Times regrets that it did not detect the journalistic deceptions sooner. A separate internal inquiry, by the management, will examine the newsroom's processes for training, assignment and accountability.

For all of the falsifications and plagiarism, The Times apologizes to its readers in the first instance, and to those who have figured in improper coverage. It apologizes, too, to those whose work was purloined and to all conscientious journalists whose professional trust has been betrayed by this episode.

To illustrate how much the paper treasures its legacy, The NYT has taken other corrective measures which include spot-checking Blair's earlier work. It promised to carry out another major examination if needed. It asked readers and news sources who know of defects in additional articles to send e-mail to The Times.

In coming days, it will aso attach cautionary notices to the faulty articles kept in online databases that include copy from The Times.

It also ran an Op-Ed piece by William Safire, an an interview by NYT executive editor Howell Raines with The NewsHour ( on RealAudio, and a readers' opinion forum on the issue.

Blair's articles since October 2002 are available here.

That's what it takes a good paper to correct the record. Can someone also email this blog to JMTM chef de mission Ahmad A. Talib, please.

Via Dan Gillmor and thanks to YW Loke of BeritaMalaysia for the pointer (Straits Times Singapore: NY Times reporter copied from other newspapers).

NST faces defamation suit over Shamsul's article

Deadline has come and passed. Foreign Affairs Minister Syed Hamid Albar, who became the target of an NST commentary published on April 19, has sent a letter threatening to file a defamation suit on the paper.

The problem is, according to Straits Times Singapore, The NST did not heed the three-day ultimatum he gave. The deadline has since lapsed.

The commentary the minister took offence to was writtten by NST associate political editor Shamsul Akmar Musa Kamal, who filed in his story via JMTM from Baghdad. Shamsul Akmar censured the minister as “being the least qualified” to talk about the situation in Baghdad when no one from the ministry had been there.

This is what Shamsul commented further about the minister:

Syed Hamid may have come to his conclusion that the Malaysian journalists were in fear based on his assessment of some of his people from the ministry who feared for their safety if they entered Baghdad.

All this boils down to what kind of leadership the minister provides. [...]

That is the reason why the matter relating to Syed Hamid is in the lower segment of this column; because the taxpayers paid for the upper segment of this article.

On that note, the likes of Syed Hamid should at best be humoured.

The minister jumped, and took it as “a personal attack beyond professional criticism, independence of the press and the freedom of expression”.

The Straits Times Singapore said Syed Hamid had sent a lawyer's letter, seeking a retraction and full apology.

In fact, the minister had even set out the format of the apology. He wanted the apology to be of the same size and font as the original article and requested that it be published on two consecutive days.

He also asked for unspecified damages, to be negotiated by lawyers representing both parties.

The newspaper was given three days to respond, after which it could expect legal action.

But the deadline was not met and sources told Straits Times Singapore that the matter is being dealt with by the paper's lawyers.

You may like to revisit my earlier blog on the issue as the URL to the NST website has expired.

Shamsul Akmar just reached home last night (May 11) after having left on April 5 for Amman en route to Baghdad tocover the US invasion of Iraq.

The news that has been going around is that Shamsul Akmar's commentary was published with the consent of his Group Editor-in-Chief, Dollah Kok Lanas, who has just sacked his associate editor cum ghost-writer, Rehman Rashid last Thursday (May 8).

Sunday, May 11, 2003

One-man show

We need company. Amir Muhammad said this in his malaysian-writers mailing list, created since October 1999:

Jeff Ooi might just be our one-man version of Britain's Private Eye magazine, particularly its "Street of Shame" section that chronicles the corruption of the media.

Well, a Malaysian versi has been long overdue. His blog, updated almost daily, is required reading - amir.

Can we have more for company besides this?

* Send me an email
* Suggest a column/blog topic


Non-semantics. Oon Yeoh mentioned I was anti-war (on Iraq).

I hope he will get his tenses right the next time - Jeff Ooi is anti-war on Iraq.

But no offence. He knows where I am.