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Mar 2, 2008

Makkal Osai, Utusan, The Star top pro-BN papers: Monitor


PETALING JAYA (March 1, 2008): Between 50% and 70% of news stories published by the mainstream print media on the 12th General Election in the past week is pro-Barisan Nasional (BN).

Broadsheet dailies Makkal Osai and Utusan Malaysia had the most extensive coverage in BN's favour, with at least 77% and 75% respectively.

Among the English dailies, The Star topped on Feb 18 with 70% of its election stories pro-BN, while the figure for the New Straits Times is between 48% and 61%.

theSun hovered between 38.5% and 52.4% in favour of BN, but had the highest percentage of pro-opposition stories (up to 41%) on the same day.

According to the Media Monitor's press statement, theSun also saw an upward trend in the number of stories that were neutral: "The subjects were treated fairly or with minimum appeal to any parties, while the trend was decreasing for NST and hovering around one quarter of the election stories in The Star."

These are the preliminary results of the quantitative analysis carried out by the Media Monitors from Feb 18 to 22.

Jointly carried out by Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), the Writers' Alliance for Media Independence (Wami) and Charter 2000-Aliran with the support of volunteers, the monitoring will be conducted until March 9, one day after polling day.

The publications monitored are New Straits Times, The Star, theSun, Utusan Malaysia, Makkal Osai and Malaysian Nanban.

Data collection involved all news articles, photos and photo montages, features and opinions, the regional section and letters to the editor. The percentage is based on the story count from the total number of articles on elections.

Volunteers also provide general observations of the daily coverage in the Media Monitors' Diary (http://www.aliran.com/elections).

CIJ executive director Gayathry Ventikeswarasan said while it was common knowledge that the mainstream media would favour BN in its coverage, the quantitative analysis had provided interesting and relevant information to assess the media in its elections reporting.

“The data showed the often held opinion that when the non-BN parties are featured, they are portrayed as in a state of crisis or in a trivial manner. The Utusan Malaysia is a glaring example, but the others are also guilty of the same. The extent to which the stories are lopsided is a worrying indication on the lack of scrutiny for professional and ethical standards.

“Among the issues that the media capitalised for the BN were Fong Po Kuan's initial withdrawal, Datuk Hadi Awang's statement on demonstrations, Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat calling Umno members orang utan and the opposition's welfare state proposal,” Gayathry said in the statement.

She said there were some positive stories on non-BN parties, airing news of their candidates and manifestos, although "the coverage could be significantly improved".

"So far we have seen the news focusing on the candidates on both sides of the divide. We hope there will be more in-depth analysis of the issues and pledges made by all sides. There is still time to alter the trends in the slant of the coverage to one that proves the ethical integrity of the media,” she added.

She said voters who relied on the mainstream media as their main source of information are entitled to fair and balanced coverage of all parties.

"Basic ethical considerations like fairness in reporting, the right of reply need to be actively enforced by journalists." - theSun


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