FAT BIDIN MEDIA


Wayang kulit, pigs and Islam

Wayang kulit, pigs and Islam
By Zan Azlee

I remember many years ago, I directed a documentary film about Dollah Baju Merah, the last classically trained wayang kulit dalang in Malaysia from Kelantan. He has since passed on and I was the last person to officially interview him and to document his last wayang kulit performance on camera.

What I remember most about the interview was how he tried to explain to me his relationship with his art using a pig analogy. During an election year, he thought he was being religious by voting for a religious party (guess what party?), but it ended with him being ostracised for practicing his art.

“Those whom I voted for declared that wayang kulit is haram because it has non-Islamic roots. And whoever practices it is committing a sin,” he said.

“But let me explain to you about pigs. A pig is an animal created by God. The pig itself isn’t haram. It’s just an animal like any other animal in the world. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

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In bleak times, faith in Allah should prevail

In bleak times, faith in Allah should prevail
By Zan Azlee

Three years ago, I remember shooting a television reportabout the “Allah” issue in Malaysia for a Dutch news agency. I had interviewed Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew, PAS parliamentarian Khalid Samad, the then home minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and several Malaysians.

The situation was tense then. The court case against the Catholic weekly Herald was taking place and a church in Klang was set on fire. It was a sad, depressing and humiliating time for Malaysia and its people when racial and religious tension was at an all-time low.

I have always used my column here at The Malaysian Insider as a platform to try and encourage discourse and understanding towards multiracialism and pluralism. It’s been so many years and I continue to use this platform, including every other media platform I have access to, for that purpose.

Now, we are in 2014. And what is the situation we are facing with regards to racial and religious tension? Has there been an improvement? The case against the Herald still exists. The issue of the word “Allah” being used by non-Muslims is being brandied around. And protests are happening.

It seems like Malaysia and its people haven’t gotten very far ahead since that television news story I did five years ago for that Dutch news agency. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Students protest the rising cost of living on New Year’s Eve (TURUN)

Students protest the rising cost of living on New Year’s Eve
By Zan Azlee

As any other New Year’s Eve celebration in Kuala Lumpur, Dataran Merdeka was jam-packed with people who were there to usher in the New Year and to enjoy the live performances that have been organised there for years without fail.

But this year, the situation was a little bit different. A call by Gerakan Turun Kos Sara Hidup (TURUN), Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM), Jingga 13 and Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) saw thousands gathering there as well, but for a different reason. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



Better resources for freelance journalists

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Better resources for freelance journalists
By Zan Azlee

It’s been a year and a half now since I’ve been fully employed at a local news organisation. This is after 10 years of being self-employed as a journalist. Many people didn’t think I would last this long. When I first came in, my new staff made bets that I would last no longer than six months in to the job.

My wife told me straight to my face that she would give me only two months before I would resign and go back to being self-employed. In fact, I didn’t think I would last this long. I came in to it as just wanting to gain a new experience, take it one step at a time and see how it goes.

In actuality, I’ve been enjoying my time being employed and have learned to adapt well to the new environment that I’ve put myself in. Of course, there are the pros and cons. I like the feeling of having a whole newsroom backing me up when I am pursuing a story. I also like the resources available for research and consulting.

But the ever so often must-cover-must-use stories and, worst of all, the management and administration duties, those are a pain in the butt. However, you work towards finding the correct balance for yourself and be happy with it. But of course, it doesn’t stop me from reminiscing about my freelancing days. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Don’t doubt the ‘lost at sea explanation’

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Don’t doubt the ‘lost at sea explanation’
By Zan Azlee

As many would know, aside from writing my articles, I am also a broadcast journalist and documentary filmmaker. Hence, a lot of my time is spent on film and television production shoots. I shoot alone as a solo-journalist and also with a crew whenever the treatment calls for it.

I have been in many different and sometimes unnatural and even dangerous situations when I am on my production shoots. I have been in quiet and serene environments such as in the jungle, small villages and air-conditioned studios where everything is nice and comfortable.

I have been in war and conflict areas whereby I have had to wear protective gear such as helmets and bullet-proof vests. I have even had to learn to shoot a gun (which I hated). I have been in huge protests, riots and demonstrations where people around me have been shot at, gassed, bludgeoned and even pelted with concrete slabs.

I have had experiences shooting on flat ground, on hilltops and mountains, on skyscrapers, underground, and even in the sky. But I have to admit, there was one situation in which I have to say was the most dangerous of all, and that was when I had to shoot on a boat at sea. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



The opening up of Myanmar… on In Focus tonight on Astro AWANI!

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The opening up of Myanmar
By Zan Azlee

Myanmar is a country close to my heart. It’s not because I have relatives there or that I’ve lived there before. In fact, it’s because I have failed in my attempts over the years to enter the country as a journalist.

The most recent failure was in early 2012. But this year, I finally made it into the country successfully. And I’m convinced that it is due to how the country’s military junta government has slowly started to open up to the world, allowing foreign journalists in and freeing up the media (relatively).

In fact, it isn’t just the foreign media that has been entering the country, an increase in foreign investments such as GLCs and SMEs have been on the rise due to the lifting of trade sanctions, with countries like South Korea, Japan and Malaysia leading the pack.

And with my trip into the country, it is clear that this has directly affected the economics of Myanmar in a positive way. The number of jobs is increasing and Yangon, although with buildings and people who look like they are from a time two decades ago, is bustling with activity.

Progress is progress and we have to acknowledge it no matter how slow or late it comes. But problems are problems and it will still exist, especially for a country that is now forced to have to adapt to a new world order fast if they want to survive.

The local workforce is still obscenely underpaid with normal blue collar workers earning an average of between 10,000 and 25,000 Kyat a month (RM36.40 to RM91.00), while local journalists are still very sceptical about the government’s approach to the media.

Aung San Su Kyi, who has been the symbol of human rights and democracy in Myanmar, has been freed from house arrest and is even now a member of parliament. But, in recent months, has kept quiet on issues that she would have made a fuss about back then.

During my trip, I meet lots of everyday Burmese (or Myanma) from journalists to factory workers, and even taxi drivers and cobblers, and they tell me about life in the country from their perspective.

So tune in to the last episode this season of In Focus this Tuesday, 24th September 2013, at 8:30pm on Astro AWANI.

*This entire episode of In Focus was shot on a smart phone.
[Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]


Cambodia’s urban poor children… on In Focus tonight on Astro AWANI!

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Cambodia’s urban poor children
By Zan Azlee

Cambodia is most notoriously known for the 1970s violently oppressive Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot. In more recent times, it has seen quite a tremendous economic growth within the Southeast Asian region. However, one of the most jarring problems the country faces is the large disparity between the rich and the poor, and one can notice it most when it comes to the children.

In the early 1980s, a huge undocumented number of street children roamed the city and even rural centres trying to survive by either begging, collecting garbage or doing odd jobs. This was mainly blamed on the Khmer Rouge’s deadly tactics of killing enemies of the states, thus living many children guardian-less.

In 2013, a huge undocumented number of street children still roam the city and even rural areas trying to survive doing the exact same things. The difference is, these children have parents and families. They do it to support their poverty-stricken families.

To find out more about Cambodia’s urban poor children, tune in to ‘In Focus’ tonight, Tuesday (17th September 2013), at 8:30pm.

*Catch the new season of In Focus every Tuesdays, 8:30pm, on Astro AWANI.

[Read/view the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



In Focus: Singapore Rebel

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Tonight’s ‘In Focus‘ documentary episode takes a look at how Singapore, a country so representative of first world development is also one that is notorious for media censorship and also curbing freedom of speech. I hang out with a couple of artists (Art Fazil, Martyn See, Lee Kim Min aka Mr. Brown) on the island to understand better their situation.

In Focus
Tuesdays
8:30pm
Astro AWANI (501)

If you can’t wait for tonight, there is also an online special to preempt the TV version. Just click on English.AstroAwani.Com to check it out.



In Focus: A struggling Vietnamese rock music industry in a booming economy

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Tonight’s ‘In Focus‘ documentary episode takes a look at how a fledgling alternative rock music industry is struggling to survive in a country whose economy is among the highest growing in the world – Vietnam! So tune in as I interview Vietnamese rockers and death-metallers to find out their struggles and ambitions. ARGHHH!!

In Focus
Tuesdays
8:30pm
Astro AWANI (501)

If you can’t wait for tonight, there is also an online special to preempt the TV version. Just click on English.AstroAwani.Com to check it out.



In Focus: The Istanbul riots (Part 2)

‘In Focus‘ tonight is the second and final part of my Turkey Riots special. It’s like BOOM!! So make sure you tune in.

In Focus
Tuesdays
8:30pm
Astro AWANI (501)

There is also an online special to preempt the TV version. Just click on English.AstroAwani.Com to check it out.



In Focus: The Istanbul riots (Part 1)

My documentary series ‘In Focus‘ is going on strong in it’s second season. Tonight’s episode is something many should be looking forward to (or so I say!) as it is an in-depth, on the ground look at the Istanbul riots in Turkey. Being in Istanbul during this period is pretty intense and this is only part 1 of a 2-part series (9th and 16th July). So make sure you tune in.

In Focus
Tuesdays
8:30pm
Astro AWANI (501)

There is also an online special to preempt the TV version. Just click on English.AstroAwani.Com to check it out.



‘In Focus’ season 2 begins today!

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The 2nd season of my documentary series ‘In Focus’ begins tonight on Astro AWANI (501) y’all!!

In Focus
Every Tuesdays.
8:30pm
Astro AWANI (501)

The first episode looks at OrphanCARE, the NGO that introduced the controversial ‘baby hatch’ to Malaysia. You can view the Web version at English.AstroAwani.Com to pre-empt yourself for the show at night! Jeng jeng jeng!



Social media determines editorial direction

peoplepower

Social media determines editorial direction
By Zan Azlee

I travel quite often to report news and also to produce documentaries on countries other than Malaysia. And, being a foreigner in these countries, I can never claim that I am an expert on their domestic issues. Call me a parachute journalist if you want. But it is impossible to understand a country and it’s people if you don’t live there for a certain period of time.

So the most common thing for me to do is to get myself a fixer, or a local guide, to help me out. They do more than just be a translator. They usually become the link between me and the country.

They help to inform me of the goings-on of the country, the culture, find me contacts and sources, and most of all, to put things into context for me. And if I’m going into war zones, they have to be street-smart, reliable and trusted as well, as my life would be in their hands. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]


Getting inspiration from a revolution far far away in the Mediterranean

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A revolution doesn’t happen overnight
By Zan Azlee

If people think that a revolution happens overnight, then they’re wrong. It festers, comes to a tipping point, plateaus and then hopefully something positive happens. The best example would be Turkey, where just over two weeks ago, huge and deadly protests happened all over the country.

It all started in Gezi Park and Taksim Square in Istanbul. And so, being the cat that has yet to be killed by curiosity, I just had to pay the place a visit. And so here I am today typing out this article in a hotel room overlooking, where else if not, Taksim Square and Gezi Park.

The occupation of the square and park has now ended, thanks to the brutal police force used in dispersing the thousands who were there. But this does not mean that the struggle and resistance in Istanbul has ceased. Instead, it is stronger than ever with everything going to the grassroots. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



I’m not an objective journalist

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I’m not an objective journalist
By Zan Azlee

Recently, people have accused me of not being objective in my journalism. In fact, I’ve had this accusation thrown to me many times over the years. But seriously, I’ve been accused of worse. Like in my college days, some people actually accused me of being a Limp Bizkit and Korn fan!

So let me set the record straight right now, here on my Astro AWANI column. I am not, I repeat NOT, an objective journalist! The only reason why I am not an objective journalist is for the fact that I do not see the need for me to be objective as a journalist.

I think that we need to get past the ‘he said this and he said that’ journalism because the public now are intelligent enough to know that full objectivity does not exist anyway.

Every soundbite or quote that a journalist chooses to include or exclude in a story is already a subjective decision. Every photograph or video footage that a journalist shoots and edits in or out of a story is already a subjective decision.

Many journalists who insist that they are objective aren’t aware that they are really just trying to portray a perception or image of objectivity. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



In the Heat of Battle: The Story of Lembah Pantai – The TV mini-series starts tonight on 501 Awani!

Remember ‘In the Heat of Battle: The Story of Lembah Pantai‘ which I did during the campaign and election period last week on AstroAwani.Com? Well, the TV version is all done – it’s a 5-episode mini series starting tonight (Wednesday, 15th May 2013), every night until Sunday (19th May 2013), at 9:30pm, on 501 Astro AWANI!

The entire 2-week campaign and election period condensed into 4 episodes of TV time… it doesn’t get better than that! It’s like being there without being there yourself! Hahaha!



In The Heat Of Battle: The story of Lembah Pantai (Part 9 – ‘A Malaysian Spring’ and ‘Report Card Day’ – you make the choice!)

Part 9 – ‘A Malaysian Spring’ and ‘Report Card Day’ – you make the choice!

The second half of the campaign season started with a bang. On one side, the huge campaign machinery went into full gear and came up with an event fueled by much fanfare, while the other side relied on community-based people power.

Click to hear to view/read/watch/listen/smell the full story!



In The Heat Of Battle: The story of Lembah Pantai (Part 8 – Taxi!)

Part 8 – Taxi!

While on the Lembah Pantai campaign trail, I bumped into two taxi drivers, James Sundram and Navanathan, who offered to tell me their story over coffee in a stall in Lucky Garden, Bangsar. Apparently, things still aren’t as hunky dory as it seems even after 1,000 individual taxi permits have been issued by the government.

Click to hear to view/read/watch/listen/smell the full story!



In The Heat Of Battle: The story of Lembah Pantai (Part 6 – Who has a more winnable campaign style?)

Part 6 – Who has a more winnable campaign style?

Part 6 – Who has a more winnable campaign style?
Zan Azlee compares the campaigning style of Nurul Izzah Anwar and Datuk Raja Nong Chick Zainal Abidin. Whose do you prefer?

Click to hear to view/read/watch/listen/smell the full story!



In The Heat Of Battle: The story of Lembah Pantai (Part 5 – The other side of the highway)

Part 5 – The other side of the highway

In part 5, I follow the candidates as they cross the highway into the ghettos of Lembah Pantai to campaign!

Click to hear to view/read/watch/listen/smell the full story!




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