MH370: A tipping point for the media?


MH370: A tipping point for the media?
By Zan Azlee

The media is subservient to the happenings of the world, and there are major events that happen over the years that can be considered turning points in the way the media world spins. Between 1914 and 1918, World War 1 contributed a lot for newspapers as more and more people wanted to stay abreast with happenings in Europe and sales experienced an unprecedented spike.

World War 2, from 1939 to 1945, became the era of the radio as people tuned in live to listen to the famous broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow narrate the bombing of London. The Vietnam War, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, was really the boom of photojournalism as pictorial news magazines made their mark in the world.

The first Gulf War in Iraq occurring from 1990 to 1991 was the era of television news as we saw how 24 hour news channels fed live broadcasts of bombings into people’s living rooms. The next major incident that happened changing the face of media was the 9/11 terrorists’ attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City.

Traditional media like newspapers, television and radio were almost totally ignored as people turned online to the Internet to get immediate alerts of what was unfolding in New York. That was the tipping point for the online news, and twenty plus years on since that day, the Internet is now the main source of news for the world community.

In fact, traditional news outlets such as newspapers are suffering so much from the switch in audience’s habits that they are facing a major financial crisis and many have even closed shop. And now it looks like the media world is facing another tipping point that is going to change the way the world community consumes their news and information and of how news organisations will create their content.

This will be the time when established news media organisations will have their legitimacy challenged as they are pitted with conspiracy theories that are spread online by the public. [Click to read the full article at Enlish.AstroAwani.Com]

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The new breed of ‘Generation 5D’ journalists

Zan Azlee with Zebolon Simantov.

The new breed of ‘Generation 5D’ journalists
By Zan Azlee

I wish I could categorise myself as a “Generation 5D” journalist. Unfortunately, I can’t because according to Spencer Chumbley, the person who coined the term, I’m a little bit too old.

If you don’t know, “5D” really refers to the Canon EOS 5D digital SLR camera model which was one of the first of its kind to combine high quality still photo and video capturing capabilities in a single camera (this was around 2008).

Chumbley is in his late 20s and when he started out in his career, these cameras with multimedia capabilities were already the norm and he took to it like a fish in water (I, on the other hand, am fast approaching my late 30s!).

So these “Generation 5D” journalists can be considered natural multimedia journalists who have the skills to tell stories in a myriad of ways, combining text, still photos, audio and video.

And because this is a new way of telling news stories (and not to mention told by storytellers who were youthful and energetic), the stories themselves have a different approach and perspective.

It isn’t of the old style of journalism where objectivity is sacred and format is what determined if a news story was worthy or not. These “Generation 5D” journalists have a voice and an opinion.

Subjectivity, which was an evil curse word to the elders, is now almost mandatory in journalism. Of course, just because an opinion is included, it doesn’t mean that honesty is thrown out the window. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Frozen feminism

athena painting

Frozen feminism
By Zan Azlee

My friends and family all know how fiercely protective I am when it comes to my daughter Athena’s exposure to anything princess-ey. I pray that she never develops the dreaded princess syndrome where she kills all ambition and passion just to be rescued by a prince charming.

Just think about it. Snow White just lies down unconscious waiting for prince charming to rescue her from an eternal coma with a kiss. The Little Mermaid was willing to give up her beautifully talented voice just to be beside her prince charming. And so on and so forth.

So when the Disney film Frozen came out in the cinema, I was slightly apprehensive about bringing Athena to watch it. But I did and I was not disappointed. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

We must debate the Quran!



We must debate the Quran!
By Zan Azlee

I’m a Muslim, or so I claim. I believe in the religion, its God and its prophet. I also sin like the rest of us. I’m like any normal Muslim, I guess. I’m not a religious scholar, imam, qadi, bilal, ustaz, mudim, or whatever. But I do a little bit of reading, studying, travelling, interviewing and asking around.

And on that basis, I feel that is my responsibility and obligation to sometimes stand up for my religion, from those who aren’t of the faith and, most of all, those of the faith. It seems that the number one gripe of Muslims in Malaysia is the fact that there can be no debate when it comes to religious issues.

We put so much emphasis on the form of how we practice Islam that we forget the substance, which is way more important. I doubt God would be raging mad at you if you forgot to raise one finger during prayers, or maybe you missed a spot on the inside of your ear during your wuduk or ablution.
And I don’t think he would curse a land with floods and disease just because everyone wants to use the word ‘Allah’, or some Muslim said the word ‘Christmas’. What happened to studying Islam and it’s different schools of thought, interpretations, ideas, intellectual discourse and so on and so forth?
Anyway, it’s as if Islam came down all those centuries ago and is expected to be the guide for humankind for eternity, without any amendments. Boy, did they get it so wrong! Have they even actually tried to sit down and understand the Quran and the prophet’s hadith properly? [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

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]

The Heat has yet to cool down


The Heat has yet to cool down
By Zan Azlee

And here we go everyone. The clampdown has begun! Shut up your face! We don’t like what you’re saying! Do you think you can say what you want? It doesn’t matter if what you say is the truth or not, or if you have proof or not.

If we say you have to shut down, then you must shut down. There is no two ways about it. We have the power. No matter how technical or minute the issue is, we will go all drastic on you. Do you actually think we care?

We don’t even care if we look stupid by shutting you down. It doesn’t matter if everyone can see right through our intentions. Does it even matter if by shutting you down we would look like regressive neanderthal cavemen? No!

Do you think it even bothers us that we are showing everyone in the world that we are undemocratic? No! Do you actually think that we care if we are seen as uncivilised people who show no regards to human rights? No! [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Holy Water vs. Air Yasin

Holy Water vs. Air Yasin
By Zan Azlee

Recently, while I was casually browsing through the JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) website, I stumbled upon something interesting. (Please don’t ask me why I was casually browsing though the website. Just don’t!)

There is this one particular page on the site that caught my eye titled ‘Guidelines for Muslims celebrating religious festivals of non-Muslims’. As a multiculturalist Malaysian who celebrates a slew of festivals, from the Muslim to the non-Muslim kind, I obviously had to read it to ensure my Islamic faith is still intact.

It being the Christmas season, I will look specifically at the points that refer to Christmas, just to keep to a timely theme. Or else, this article would be just too long. The page states that if a Muslim is to attend an event, he or she needs to make sure that the event does not consist of ‘ceremonies that are against the Islamic faith’. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Malaysia… standing in the eyes of the world!


Malaysia… standing in the eyes of the world!
By Zan Azlee

In a previous life, I used to work with the foreign media. But then, a year and a half ago, I decided to go full on in the local media, hence I am now at Astro AWANI. Not much of a story behind the decision. It’s very clichéd actually. I wanted to feel more local stories and tell it to more local people. Basically, I wanted to serve Malaysia (chewah!).

In my opinion, for real impact, Malaysians need to be aware of the issues in their country and in their own context. Only then will they be moved to take action if it so requires. However, news about Malaysia in the foreign media is important because it puts some highlight on to the country and its issues.

Positive news that appear on a global media platform will bring pride and happiness to the people while negative news puts pressure on whoever is responsible. So I thought for this week, I would like to take a look at the different news stories on Malaysia that appeared in the foreign and international media. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet


A rose by any other name would smell as sweet
By Zan Azlee

Call me murtad (apostate), I don’t care. Call me syirik (polytheist), I don’t care. Heavy accusations in Islam, these two. I hope the accusers have the necessary proof, evidence and criteria to do so. I, an official Muslim, hereby publicly declare that I have no problems with other religions aside from Islam using the word Allah to refer to God.

Most of the times when I write my column, it is to address a readership that is as wide and as general as possible without targeting too specific a group. But this week, I am writing to Muslims in particular (err, but if you are an infidel, you can still continue reading!), and especially Malay Muslims.

As Muslims, we are obligated to believe in the existence of the prophets and this includes the prophet Jesus, who brought to the world Christianity, and even Moses who brought Judaism. As a Muslim, we are also obligated to believe in the existence of the holy books and this includes the Bible which taught Christianity and the Torah which taught Judaism.

And, when we believe in all this, we also have to believe that all Abrahamic religions come from one God, and in Arabic (the main language of Islam’s Quran) the word is Allah. So, when an argument is made that Christianity and Islam are two different religions, no one can deny it. It’s true. These are two different religions.

But when it comes to God, both these different religions refer to the same God. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet (oh crap, did I just objectify God as a rose?). [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

‘Allah’ – the Malay word that isn’t

‘Allah’ – the Malay word that isn’t
By Zan Azlee

Malaysia is a multicultural, multiracial and multireligious country, according to the government of Malaysia. And, Malaysia is also supposed to be harmonious, peaceful and tolerant, according to the government of Malaysia.

There are a lot of initiatives and efforts done to ensure that Malaysia continues to be a multicultural, multiracial, multireligious and harmonious country. And having a common national language is just such contributor to encouraging and promoting harmony and a self of belonging.

In Malaysia, the obvious language that is used to pull people together is Bahasa Malaysia. It is taught in schools and is also the official government medium of communication. Basically, almost every single Malaysian can speak the Malay language in one form or another and this is the common denominator for us all.

I like that we have something that is inclusive and makes all Malaysians similar. By having a common language, we all have something to call our own. A language that has been spoken since the 7th century (most likely even before that) and was the business language of the Southeas Asian region has deep history.

Anyone from around the world had to master the Malay language if they wanted to be able to trade and do business successfully. And it was a welcome to have Arab merchants, Chinese diplomats, European explorers and African traders learning the language when they came to our land.

The 17th century Dutch scholar, Francois Valentijn, even wrote that the Malay language was the lingua franca of the eastern region, much like French and Latin is in Europe. He added that it was a language that was even spoken and understood in the lands as far as Persia to the west and the Philippines to the east.

People around the world actually embraced the language. How cool is that? So it should be no problem for Bahasa Malaysia to be embraced within Malaysia itself. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Don’t doubt the ‘lost at sea explanation’


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]

How can an average Malaysian address the A-G report?

How can an average Malaysian address the A-G report?
By Zan Azlee

I’m just an average person living an average life. I work an average job and I make an average salary. I’m as average as the average Malaysian can be. That is why I feel so helpless after reading the 2012 Auditor-General’s report and knowing that there is nothing I can do it about it, just like many Malaysians out there.

Some of the highlights (among many) of the report include:

-       A RM303,813 travel claim by a Ministry of Communications and Culture senior officer to Geneva, Switzerland, which was worth RM50,000.
-       TM was overpaid by RM27.59 million for the MERS999 project.
-       The police lost equipment worth RM1.3 million, which included 44 firearms and 29 vehicles.
-       Khazanah Nasional Bhd mishandling RM3.05 million worth of paintings.
-       RM1.6 million spent on a K-Pop concert was declared by the Ministry of Youth and Sports as being paid by sponsors when it was really tax-payers’ money.

The annual Auditor-General’s report is always a very revealing document for the public. But history has shown that after reveal, nothing ever happens. This year, a tremendous amount of revelation happened and almost every single media (even the government controlled ones) are making noise.

But do you expect anything positive to happen now that all these revelations have been highlighted for all of Malaysia to see? The only thing I see happening is politicians going on the defensive and just denying everything that is in the report, or having an excuse for it (logical or illogical). [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Datuk Seri Draco in da house!


Datuk Seri Draco in da house!
By Zan Azlee

How well do we know our politicians in Malaysia? We know them well enough to know that they are populists when it comes to election period.

How many people remember when the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, announced that the Sedition Act be abolished? It was before the elections. Then, when the elections were over, the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Ahmad Hamidi, stated that it should not be abolished.

And how many people remember when the Prime Minister said that the Internal Security Act would be abolished? It was before the elections. Then, when the elections were over, two days ago as a matter of fact, the Home Minister stated that there will be amendments made to the Crime Prevention Act.

Study the amendments carefully and you will notice (as many have) that the Crime Prevention Act will then become a new form of Internal Security Act. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Sabahans could be Earth’s saviours!


Sabahans could be Earth’s saviours
By Zan Azlee

The movement and collection of heat and carbon dioxide caused by pollution and global warming shows a worrying trend for countries near the equator. Satellite images show that it is heading towards the equator where most of the world’s forests are, and that includes Malaysia, and more specifically Sabah and Sarawak.

The reason why the forest areas are the places heat and carbon dioxide gathers is because only the forests have the natural ability to actually treat the problem. And what is more interesting, studies have shown that the areas where most of the world’s forests are, are also places that have the most numbers of languages spoken.

This study was made known to me yesterday, at the start of the 2013 Borneo Eco Film Festival in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, by speaker and festival organizer, Agnes Agama. I’m convinced the study, conducted by Terralingua.Org, is true seeing that the Amazon has so many different tribes and ethnicities and different languages.

And I am even more convinced when I see Sarawak and, more specifically, Sabah where there are also many different ethnicities and languages. It also seems totally logical without an ounce of coincidence that the responsibility of saving the earth falls on areas that have such wide biocultural diversity.

If you have ever been to Sabah, then you would know that the relationship amongst people of different races and religions is different than in Malaya. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

What happened to Shabery Cheek?

What happened to Shabery Cheek?
By Zan Azlee

I’ve met Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek on countless occasions. Usually it’s to interview him, but there were times when we just had a drink or meal to chat.

I honestly think he’s a very nice person and many of the things he does in his capacity as a member of the cabinet and a politician have good intentions.

Okay, now that the disclaimer and the ‘cover all bases’ step has been taken, on to my criticism, or maybe a better word for it would be constructive suggestions.

Being the Minister of Communication and Multimedia (of which he has held the portfolio once before), I’m sure he is familiar with how the media and public perception works. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Tanda Putera – a fictionalised review


Tanda Putera – a fictionalised review
By Zan Azlee

Tanda Putera is a film that is hot on the lips of so many Malaysians. And so, as someone who writes for the Malaysian public, I feel obliged to write a review of it.

A film is a film, whether it is a non-fiction documentary, docudrama or even narrative fiction. And each genre has it’s methods and style.

A documentary, being non-fiction, would have to keep to the spirit of truth and honesty. It has to strive to be an exact representation of what really happened.

For a fiction film, as the word fiction would describe it, is something that is created and made up. Hence, truth and reality does not have be a tenet in a fiction film.

For a film like Tanda Putera, the lines are blurry. It is supposed to be based on a true story. But as the director Shuhaimi Baba stated, there were parts that were dramatised and fictionalised.

Fair enough. A film director working on a fictionalised story based on something that really happened reserves the right of creative licensing.

It is, after all, a subjective interpretation by the film director. And when it is a subjective interpretation, then there is no wrong in the film being biased or opinionated.

This happens a lot and is accepted by most audiences. Take for example films like Adman Salleh’s Paloh, Aziz M. Osman’s Leftenan Adnan, Liew Seng Tat’s Flower or even Oliver Stone’s JFK.

So, what’s the big deal, right? Well, the big deal happens when a society is not mature enough to see how art (no matter how bad or good it is) is just art. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Happy Merdeka! Even if it isn’t.


Happy Merdeka! Even if it isn’t.
By Zan Azlee

It’s that time of the year again when all of the media gears their content towards that one national theme – Merdeka Day. How cliched, but somehow necessary. And so I find myself obligated to write somethhing alng the lines of the Merdeka theme as well. But I’ll try to keep things as current and as relevant as possible.

What does merdeka really mean, anyway? It’s suppose to mean independence or freedom. And an independence country means a country that is sovereign. An independent country is also one that is not controlled by anyone and is free to do as it pleases depending on what is right or wrong. It is the freedom to make a choice.

So what does it mean when in an independent country where there is suppose to be freedom of choice, big brother makes that choice for the people? It means that there really is no independence.

Recently, the Penang state government decided that they would disallow the screening of the controversial film about the May 13th 1969 riots, Tanda Putera, in the state. Okay, fine! Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng clarifies by saying that they are just issuing a cautionary advisory against watching the film. Whatever lah. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Non-Muslims funded a mosque? Gasp! Happy Merdeka!


Non-Muslims funded a mosque? Gasp! Happy Merdeka!
By Zan Azlee

Malaysia has gone to the dogs. But that would be such a negative statement for a column that has the intentions of commerating this year’s Merdeka Day. So I’m going to try my best to end it in a positive note. First of all, we can agree that racial issues have become a trend in Malaysia. Every racial group has a problem with every other racial group.

Polarisation among the people seem to be at it’s highest peak. This is happening in schools, universities, the private working sector, and of course, the public sector. Religious conflict, although thankfully not violent, is also on the rise and taking centre stage in our media. So Malaysia is truly going to the dogs.

Now let me slightly digress to see if I can further make the point that I am trying to make. Every Malaysian is familiar with the National Mosque, or Masjid Negara, in Kuala Lumpur. Conceptualised a month before Merdeka, completed and opened in 1965, it is a symbol of how Malaysia was, and how Malaysia should be now and forever.

Designed and built by a Brit and two Malaysians (Howard Ashley, Hisham Albakri and Baharuddin Kassim), that in itself would already be unheard of now. What?!? They let a non-Muslim design a mosque?!? Astarghfirullah! [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Tee does it again!


Tee does it again!
By Zan Azlee

I cherish every opportunity I get to discredit, counter, disprove, disagree and slam our great Associate Professor Dr. Ridhuan Tee Abdullah. And so I am thankful for every time the good doctor produces an article that reflects his thoughts and tickles my fancy, just like his most recent writing in Utusan Malaysia.

His recent column in the newspaper dated 16th August 2013 was actually on something that I would really not have any beef with. It wasn’t really hard-hitting or ground-breaking at all. The good doctor criticised Singapore’s former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew’s, latest book, One Man’s View of the World.

More specifically, he criticised Lee Kuan Yew’s criticism of Malaysia’s affirmative action for Malays, and that it is driving local talent away from the country. Although I do have a problem with affirmative action in this country (as I have stated many times in my many writings), I don’t have a problem with the good doctor’s rant about it. It’s his right to say so, anyway.

How does that saying go again? ‘I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’, right? I think it was said by someone named Voltaire. But when the good doctor starts harping on about going to war with another country, now that’s where I have to stop calling him the good doctor anymore. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

The actual Malay dilemma


The actual Malay dilemma
By Zan Azlee

It seems that one of the big discussions amongst Malaysians at the moment is if we are actually getting too sensitive. This is because of the “offence” that we have been taking over all kinds of issues.

First of all, there was the Alvivi case where this idiotic Chinese couple took a picture of themselves eating bak kut teh which they spread online and offended the Malays in the country.

Then there was the case of a Malay woman making a video with her pet dogs which caused a stir and offended the Malays in the country.

After that, an owner of a private resort allowed a group of Buddhists to meditate in a room which was also allocated as a surau. And this offended the Malays in the country.

At a first glance, I can see the reason why many people are starting to think that Malaysians are actually getting too sensitive for their own good.

But at a second glance, I think I’m beginning to see a trend here. Can you see it? It seems like those who constantly get offended happen to be Malays. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]


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