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Friday, August 12, 2011

Najib-Taib media scandal: The corruption of perception

Sulaiman Kamal | 4:10 AM | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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The advertising critic Randall Rothenberg has suggested that there is something called a Media-Spindustrial Complex, which encompasses advertising, public relations, lobbying, polling, direct mail, investor relations, focus groups, jury consulting, speechwriting, radio and television stations, and newspapers - all of which are in the business of twisting and turning and gyrating the facts to suit a certain pre-designated goal.
Lies can now be told as truth and perceptions built around fantasy as long as you pretend to sell something else. This is the root of all manner of advertising and something that Malaysians have been sold onto for decades under the rule of Barisan Nasional.

Controlling the perception game was what Najib and Taib had in mind, when they engaged FBC Media to promote their “good” image overseas to the tune of millions in Malaysian tax-payers' money. They had no qualms in spending public money to shore up their own "bad" public image in the eyes of a global audience. The gravity of the costs incurred by the two have been cleverly hidden behind governmental wordings, not hard to do when both Najib and Taib hold the finance minister portfolios for federal and state respectively.
A deliberate act to deceive
According to official statistics, between 2008-2009 alone, a massive RM57.68 million was paid by the Prime Minister’s office to FBC Media to conduct a ”Global Strategic Communications Campaign” for the Malaysian government. RM29,337,650 was paid out in 2008 and RM28,350,000 in 2009. A further RM42 million was spent in 2010 on “Public Affairs and Government Services and Strategic Communication, Public Relations and Press Outreach”, according to the latest supplementary budget.
RM15 million was paid by Taib Mahmud to FBC Media to design programs to convince international viewers that the Chief Minister’s government of Sarawak has been beneficial in bringing development to the people of the state.
The services rendered by FBC media for both Najib and Taib have created a storm of controversy among international news broadcasters. In a move to protect their journalistic integrity, CNBC has axed FBC media’s flagship business show World Business and the BBC has suspended all FBC programming pending an enquiry after expose on FBC Media’s contracts with Najib and Taib appeared on the Sarawak Report website.
Indeed, international journalistic standards are far different than those in Malaysia.
Mainstream media in Malaysia is heavily controlled by the BN government but there is no such control imposed by the governments in UK or America. Media in these countries are self-governing and impose their own strict code of ethics. Freedom of the press is closely guarded and this guarantees the kind of journalistic reporting that can only be dreamed of in Malaysia.
Thus, for Najib and Taib to pay a public relations company to paint a rosy picture of themselves to an international audience can be summed up as a move to deceive and lie about what is actually happening in Malaysia. This cannot and will not be accepted by any educated and professional journalist in UK or America.
Hard to catch them on the spending, but deception is also punishable
But was it wrong for Najib and Taib to spend tax-payers money in a deliberate move to deceive a global audience?
The act of spending public money is not wrong unless it is justified and the paper work is in order. Najib Razak as the federal Finance Minister and Taib Mahmud as Sarawak state Finance Minister would have made sure that the books were in order and the expenses look legitimate. They would have given all sorts of justification, used their clout to make sure Parliament and the state legislative assembly approved such expenses.
Public money would be seen to have been spent for legitimate purposes, yet under close scrutiny, these expenses would not have not benefited tax-payers.
What is wrong though is the deliberate act to deceive.
Bias and skewed reporting by international news organizations are back-flowed to the local news agencies which in turn present these reports to Malaysians. Malaysians will perceive the news as being credible and true and why not so, since the source came from the likes of the BBC, CNBC or CNN. If such false perceptions continue to be churned out, Malaysians will eventually be deprived of knowing the truth. They will become conditioned to live within a form of reality fashioned by the very leaders who govern them. We are made to believe that all is well with Najib and Taib, because the very media that we trust reports that it is so and we are not talking about the local media but the foreign news agencies who provided the stories.
By using Malaysian tax-payers money, both Najib and Taib with the help of FBC Media have orchestrated and engineered a plan to deceive not just the world but ultimately the people of Malaysia. Such acts to deceive should not go unpunished.
Big liars
The wastage of public funds should be scrutinized by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and a report presented to the people of Malaysia, who deserve to know what benefit they have obtained from Najib’s ”Global Strategic Communications Campaign”.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission should also launch an investigation into the reports presented bySarawak Report, which have already been acted upon by international news broadcasters like CNBC and the BBC. Why should these be conveniently disregarded here in Malaysia?
It is high time that Malaysians themselves find out what it is that Najib and Taib are trying so clumsily to hide from global audiences. There is no point in telling Malaysians to believe in their government when what their government tells them and the rest of the world may just be very big lies.


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