BN uses taxi drivers to spread propaganda

Malaysian Media Monitors’ Diary
28 February 2008

The Umno president’s meeting with the association of taxi drivers has now put us on notice that, the next time we get into a cab, we’ll be getting a dose of Barisan Nasional propaganda from the drivers. Speaking at the launch of a campaign by the Association of Malaysian Taxi/Limousine and Hire Car Drivers (Pertekma) in Penang on Monday (25 February), Abdullah Ahmad Badawi “hoped taxi drivers would help the government in explaining to the passengers on the issue of higher petrol prices and the efforts taken by the government to protect the people from the adverse effects” (Bernama, 25 February).
This is, of course, after assuring them that the government always “looked for various ways to ensure that the people were not burdened by the rising cost of petrol and other goods, including providing free text books to school children, abolishing school and examination fees and reducing charges for treatment and health care at government hospitals.” In the run-up to the 1999 elections, then Entrepreneur Development Minister Mustapa Mohamed told Parliament the ministry would revoke the licences of taxi drivers who criticised the government. Hmm..
With the benefit of their 24-hours news service, Radio 24 ran the story on Abdullah’s meet several times on Monday and inserted a comment from a taxi driver from the Sunlight company who said he would explain to his passengers the BN’s position and how they supported the party.
Everyone knows that the source of worry for the taxi driver is not only fuel costs, especially if they are using natural gas. At the heart of it is the way in which the operating licence is in the hands of select few who then issue thousands of individual permits. Once the driver pays his or her daily rental, the fuel costs and other maintenance costs, he or she is left with very little to take home. As with many other issues, apart from the appeal, Abdullah didn’t appear to provide any concrete way of dealing with the real problems faced by this group.
The BN’s manifesto took centre stage as in all other mainstream media with responses from the various BN leaders affirming their support for the party. Radio 24 also interviewed an academic from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Associate Professor Saleha Hassan, who noted that the BN’s manifesto was more realistic because they have a proven track record. Her point that the opposition’s manifesto was merely propaganda missed the crucial point that, except for running Kelantan and Sabah, the opposition parties have not yet come into power at the Federal level, which would have enabled them to fulfil their election promises. Radio 24 could have provided space for those with opposing views to provide a more accurate perspective.
Outgoing Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin was quoted on 25 February as saying to village committees that they should be the eyes and ears of the government to counter inaccurate information. It is a known fact that the village committees or Jawatankuasa Kemajuan dan Keselamatan Kampung (JKKK) are mainly led by individuals under the patronage of ruling parties. It is amazing how the incumbent government ministers blatantly expose the extent to which Big Brother controls the levels of power and influence.
Unfortunately, for Radio 24, its reporting has slid down to being very pro-Barisan Nasional. The station started ambitiously and had about 20 percent of pro-Opposition news on 20 and 21 February during the 1.00pm news bulletin and an encouraging 62.5 percent neutral stories. But on 27 February, the slant shifted to 87.5 percent pro-BN and only 12.5 percent neutral after the preceding day’s 77.8 percent pro-BN and 22.2 percent neutral.