News before Truth

by horngyih

It is a worrying sign and confirms my waning confidence in Journalism today ( especially here in Malaysia ) when the legal team defending local newspapers in a defamation suit makes statements indicating that the newspaper, and media today, are more concerned in ‘timely’ reporting rather than accurate reporting.

The court case is in defense of a defamation suit brought against local Malay newspaper, Utusan Malaysia, publishing a front-page report of ex PKR Hasan Ali’s statement alleging Anwar Ibrahim had made statements in a BBC interview that gay rights law in Malaysia are ‘archaic’ and ‘not relevant’. The defense lawyers have made it a case that they were publishing based on a ‘verbatim’ transcript of Hasan Ali’s statement and as such need not vet the facts of the statement since it was reporting the expressed opinions of Hasan Ali.

— “If newspapers have to go through the full process of ascertaining the truth, the details, they wouldn’t be able to report the next day,” Firoz argued.–

— Firoz later argued that the media does not have the “luxury of time” to ascertain the veracity of “facts” contained in every news report, saying that “nothing will ever get published” otherwise. —

So what the newspaper’s legal representative is arguing is that the newspaper would rather publish unconfirmed facts so as to make a timely print rather than to vet and confirm the facts resulting in a delayed report; this is most concerning if that is what we call Journalism today.

Does this not make Utusan Malaysia party to libelous actions, to take part in publishing and spreading statements of unconfirmed facts to the public? If the defense stands then it is again worrying that local news media is not interested in presenting facts through good practice of journalism by vetting facts but simply interested to print news report that ‘sells’.

Posted on facebook 28th December 2012