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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MH370: Empathising with the families


MH370: Empathising with the families
By Zan Azlee

I’m a pretty hardened human being. I’ve gone to conflict zones and disaster areas for my job as a journalist and I’ve seen quite devastating scenes with my own eyes. As much as I sympathise and feel for the people involved, I have always felt that I could separate my emotions from the situation. But things in my life have changed. It’s quite surprising to see how getting married and having a child can change your entire outlook of life.

So, I got the call at 8:30am last Saturday from one of our executive editors, Noor Azam Shairi, while I was having breakfast with a friend and my book publisher.

“Zan, I think we have to go in today. A plane went missing,” he said.

Flight MH370 had departed from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing at 12:40am and had gone missing nearly 2 hours into the journey. Journalistic instinct kicked in and I rushed to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to catch the first press conference… in my pyjamas. What ended up happening was me eventually staying at KLIA for three days (and the first day, I was doing all my live reports on camera in my pyjama t-shirt).

The scene was utter chaos. Reporters and cameramen were swarming all over the airport and at the attached Sama-Sama Hotel where the press conference was held. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com].

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]

Being objective in the case of Azizul and Shalwati

azizul family

Being objective in the case of Azizul and Shalwati
By Zan Azlee

This week, Malaysians who have been following the case of Azizul Raheem Awaluddin and Shalwati Norshal, detained in Sweden for abusing their children, got the shock of their lives.

After two months of being held under remand, the prosecutor has finally charged them in court, and the list of what they have been accused of is a long one.

Both of them are accused of a total of eight counts of gross violation of integrity of their children, and all includes beatings, inclusive of the use of rotan, belt and even a carpet beater.

The shock is because everyone in Malaysia were of the thought that it was an obvious case of a clash of cultures.

In Malaysia, moderate corporal punishment is mainly accepted. Initial reports in the media (including here at Astro AWANI) stated or implied that the abuse was merely a smack due to one of their sons not performing his prayers. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Culture is never wrong… except for Swedish culture?

My attempt at cheering the kids up.

My attempt at cheering the kids up.

Culture is never wrong… except for Swedish culture?
By Zan Azlee

One of the subjects I used to teach undergraduates many years ago was Human Communication. It was one of my favourite subjects to teach. I loved it because it was the study of how people communicate with each other, taking into consideration the context of different cultures, languages and beliefs.

A core principal of good human communication is to understand that there are many different people in the world. And being different doesn’t mean being wrong. In fact, it is important that we never judge people based on their culture because culture is never wrong.

Vietnamese and Koreans enjoy eating dog meat and it is considered a traditional dish. But most Americans would find it wrong to eat an animal that is normally a pet. Who is right or wrong? It is a norm in Chinese culture (and many Asian cultures) to have the extended family all living in one house together. But in Europe, this is not accepted as children are suppose to leave the nest when they grow up. Right? Wrong?

And now that the world is getting smaller, people are more exposed to different cultures and clashes start happening. It’s not wrong to have these clashes. People just need to be understanding and open-minded. But of course there are cultural practices, after being compared with others, come out as totally wrong.

And through education, these are slowly expected to disappear. For example, many indigenous tribes in Borneo practiced head-hunting a long time ago. Now that everyone is more educated and ‘civilised’, the practice has been totally wiped out. Which is a good thing. Genital mutilation may be the norm in some African cultures but with more knowledge, campaigns are now being conducted to educate the people so they know that it is not a good thing to do.

But one thing that cannot be done is to blame these people for their tradition and culture. It is what they’ve been doing for generations without thinking it is wrong. It’s the way they are wired to think. But of course, the key word is education.

With more clashes of culture happening, the more our minds are exposed and opened up. We get to see things from many perspectives. And that will eventually cause the entire human race to progress and evolve.

Now what am I actually getting at? It’s quite obvious I’m going to relate all of this to the Malaysian couple, Azizul Raheem Awaluddin and Shalwati Nurshal, detained in Sweden for allegedly abusing their children. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Does Sweden own your children?


Does Sweden own your children?
By Zan Azlee

I don’t believe in corporal punishment when it comes to disciplining children and neither do my parents. So I have never laid a finger on my daughter.

I would much prefer to have a heated and honest argument which eventually ends in a better understanding for both parties than a quick smack on the buttocks. But when it comes to Azizul Raheem Awaluddin and Shalwati Nurshal, the Malaysian couple detained in Sweden for ‘abusing’ their son for not praying, I think I would sway in their defence.

Its quite easy why my rational logic tells me that corporal punishment isn’t the way to go with children, because it is just the Islamic way. Islam’s main principles are compassion, mercy and sincerity. And that is how I base almost all of my dealings in life with.

What is one of the most common phrase in Islam? Of course it is, bismillahirahmanirahim, which means, in the name of Allah, the most compassionate and most merciful. And there is ikhlas,or sincerity, which is the foundation of any and every single deed in Islam if it were to have any meaning at all.

The prophet Muhammad himself had never hit a woman, child or even animal. So that must say something about the negativities of corporal punishment. But now back to the issue with the Malaysian couple who has been detained while their four children have been separated from them and are in the Swedish foster care system. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

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]

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]

Better resources for freelance journalists


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]

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]

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]

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]

A conspiracy to pull Malaysians apart


A conspiracy to pull Malaysians apart
By Zan Azlee

In just a matter of approximately a month, we Malaysians have been flooded with all kinds of propaganda that seems to be threatening our racial harmony. First, there was the stupid, moronic, idiotic and imbecilic couple Alvivi and their Bak Kut Teh spirited Ramadhan wish to all Malaysians.

Then there was the issue of a headmaster who made non-Muslims eat in a shower-changing room during Ramadhan (although it is wrong, I genuinely believe there was no malicious intent by the headmaster).

Now, we have this harmless video of a Muslim woman who made a video (three years ago, mind you) with herself and her dogs wishing people Selamat Hari Raya.

Now for this third one, it gets a little bit tricky. Many say its insulting to Islam. I, however, do not think so since there is nothing stated anyway in the religious books that say dogs are un-Islamic (but I’m a dog-lover, so sue me).

I could not care less about whether Islam is being insulted, if there is a big racist plot to bring down all the non-Malays in the country, or if the fork ran away with the spoon. What bothers me is the fact that on Facebook timeline (yes, the world has come down to this – when an entire societal situation can be extrapolated from FB!), things are not rosy.

My timeline has been divided into two distinct sides – those who are on one side, and those who are on the other. And it pains me to see this happening. With all these stories coming out in the media, there has never been a larger rift in Malaysia than I can ever remember in my entire 35 years of being alive.

I cannot help but wonder if all these are just part of an elaborate media strategy with an aim to create dischord and disharmony amongst Malaysian… for selfish reasons. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]


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