Early stats show up to 77% pro-BN coverage in newspapers

Malaysian Media Monitors’ Diary
28 Feb 2008

Mainstream newspapers gave up to 77 per cent coverage for the Barisan Nasional in terms of stories on the 12th general elections in the week leading to the nominations on 24 February. On average, the six newspapers for which data have been collated had between 50 and 70 per cent stories that portrayed BN in a positive light.
Makkal Osai topped with 77 percent on 18 February of its election stories in BN’s favour, Utusan Malaysia 75 per cent on 20 February and The Star, 70 per cent on 18 February.
On average, the six newspapers for which data have been collated, had between 50 and 70 per cent stories that portrayed BN in a positive light.
This is the preliminary result in the quantitative analysis carried out by volunteers who are part of the citizens’ election media monitoring initiative. The newspapers monitored for the statistics are New Straits Times, The Star, theSun, Utusan Malaysia, Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban from 18 February to 22 February 2008.
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Executive Director Gayathry Venkiteswaran said while it was common knowledge that the mainstream media would favour the BN in its coverage, the quantitative analysis provided interesting and relevant information to assess the media in reporting the elections.
“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 to the lack of scrutiny for professional and ethical standards.
“Among the issues that the media capitalised for the BN were Fong Po Kuan’s withdrawal, Hadi Awang’s statement on demonstrations, Nik Aziz Nik Mat calling Umno members orang utan and the opposition’s welfare state proposal,” Gayathry said in a statement.
She noted, however, that there were positive stories on non-BN parties and candidates in the newspapers monitored and even Bernama-run Radio24 aired news of their candidates and manifesto 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.
Gayathry said as voters relied on the mainstream media as their main source of information, they should be entitled to fair and balanced coverage of all parties contesting the elections. Basic ethical considerations such as fairness in reporting, the right of reply and independence of the sources need to be actively enforced by journalists.
The election media monitoring is jointly carried out by CIJ, the Writers’ Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI) and Charter 2000-Aliran with the support of independent volunteers. The monitoring is ongoing and will be conducted until the day after polling day. Updates will be provided periodically to all media and interested parties. For inquiries, call Gayathry or CIJ advocacy officer Yip Wai Fong at 03-40249840/40230772.