What IoJ And Jahabar Sadiq Have To Say About The Star's Front Page Controversy

The journo group wants the government to repeal repressive laws that impugn on freedom of speech.

Cover image via The Malaysian Insight

Calling The Star's "controversial" front page on 27 May "an editorial oversight" and not a deliberate move to sow racial and religious discord, the Institute of Journalist (IoJ) has issued a statement condemning the heavy-handed action against the English daily

The Star's 27 May front page that created the controversy.

Image via The Malaysian Insight

The IoJ said that is it "appalled and deeply concerned" by the heavy-handed action taken by the authorities against The Star. It has now called for the state to cease action against the paper.

The IoJ added that The Star's decision to suspend two top editors "shows that the paper is willing to take responsibility for whatever transgressions it is seen to have committed, perceived or otherwise."

The journo group said that The Star should be allowed to deal with the issue internally.

"The IoJ repeats its position that the only way forward in promoting a free press is to allow media organisations to decide for themselves how to deal with such issues and to determine their editorial direction, without undue and misplaced pressure from the authorities," read the statement posted on the group's page.

The IoJ also added that the calls for The Star to be suspended would be yet another nail in the coffin of press freedom in Malaysia

Noting how the press freedom in Malaysia is already severely curtailed by archaic laws and hostile treatment by many who hold positions of power, the IoJ reiterated their call on the Malaysian government to "repeal the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, and other repressive laws that impugn on freedom of speech."

"The government must take proactive measures to protect media freedom in the country and allow the media to operate freely and independently without any undue interference or threats of persecution for doing their jobs," read the statement from IoJ.

You can read the complete statement from the IoJ here

Meanwhile, Jahabar Sadiq of The Malaysian Insight also took to Facebook to voice his opinion on the whole controversy. His post, which has been shared over 600 times, has resonated with others.

Asking if The Star screw up with the layout, Jahabar wrote that he doesn't think so.

"This is pretty much its (The Star's) standard layout and it did clearly say FULL STORY IN PAGE 3. Did it refer to the photograph in that article? NO! Did the photograph refer to the article above it? NO!

"Was it clear that the headline and article had nothing to do with the photograph on the front page? YES if you read newspapers regularly and don't think Muslims are generally terrorists. NO if you don't read newspapers and rely on a snapshot. And feel people think Muslims are generally terrorists," reads his Facebook post.

Jahabar thinks it is "a matter of perception, and perhaps sensitivity"

"In this case, I think it is manufactured outrage. To emphasise, buttress the point on who is in charge of this country," he wrote, adding that the only failure of The Star, according to Jahabar, is that it "did not choose a great picture."

He further added that the authorities and The Star have over-reacted on the issue. The Malaysian police are investigating The Star for Sedition and The Star has suspended its two top editors.

"What will happen, and perhaps that's the intention, is editors will now just do the bare minimum rather than push the envelope in Malaysian journalism. We will be left with propaganda (What am I saying? We are left with propaganda in print media.)

"We live at a time when the media is called an enemy in the US, or fake news. We live at a time when everyone can publish their own version of news in social media and blogs and it gets carried and believed.

"We live at a time when journalists who go the extra mile get done in for going beyond ever-shrinking parameters set by those with vested interests and agenda," reads Jahabar's post.

According to him, The Star senior editors didn't deserve to be suspended.

"The Star screwed up on that," Jahabar wrote, adding "But I think I know why they did it. They want to avoid a suspension and keep jobs in an already difficult market. If they get punished with a suspension, they will suffer what The Edge suffered two years ago. I know what that is like. The portal I worked at, The Malaysian Insider, suffered a block and was shut down within weeks of that block."

He pointed out the hypocrisy of the outrage, saying:

"Malaysian journalists straddle a fine line of scooping, informing and being told to behave by all and sundry. Everyone just wants their version of news in their comfortable silos.

"They don't want the truth, the facts, the reality. And when there is an opportunity to put down the media, they will do it. Not just the government, it's the rest of us."

Ending his post, Jahabar wrote that:

"Journalism isn's the fourth estate anymore here in Malaysia. It is the plaything of the rich and powerful; and the target of the sensitive and the outraged.

"What The Star is going through this week is just another depth plumbed in Malaysia. How low can we go? Perhaps beyond bottom."

You can read Jahabar's full post here

What do you think about their take on the issue?

Read more on The Star's decision to suspend its two top editors:

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