Utusan provides fair access to opposition?

Malaysian Media Monitors’ Diary
2 March 2008

When a opposition politician appears on the front page of Utusan, chances are not all is well. To date, Abdul Hadi Awang from Pas has appeared thrice, and each time after he was plagued by bad publicity. This time, while the storm over his alleged decline for shaking the hand of his opponent had yet to subside, he was criticised again for his supposed decree for Pas candidates to ‘bad mouth’ their rivals from BN.
The barrage of criticism was concentrated on pages two and three on Friday, 29 February. Page two and situated at the top was the response from Umno president Abdullah Badawi- Fatwa Hadi ditegah agama. Page three was given a section of its own named ‘Fatwa Hadi’ and dedicated to Hadi’s quotations since 1981. What followed next were the responses against him by five Umno officials and a professor. The ‘battle’ covers three quarters of the page.
Moreover, the usual Friday columns on Islam were aptly titled Amalan berjabat tangan satu keadah menghidupkan sunah and Dosa besar mengumpat.
The question is why do Pas leaders make these unreasonable statements, knowing well their opponents in the BN and their media will have a field day attacking them?
The lopsided trend in Utusan in giving more space more to the BN looks ironic in page eight as it defended the BN in the issue of fair media access – Pembangkang tidak disekat guna media, a report on the outgoing deputy Information Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who said that opposition parties were not restricted from the main media; they also enjoyed added advantage over the Internet. The report was flanked by another – Peluang sama rata dalam media, in which the outgoing deputy internal security minister, Fu Ah Kiow, echoed what Ahmad Zahidi had said.
But for Utusan at least, the following stats help to assess the accuracy of the statements of both the deputy ministers. Out of a total of 62 news items concerning the elections on 29 Feb, 49 items (79 per cent) were pro-BN, compared to only 5 (8 per cent) pro-Opposition.