The shift in their editorial policies has led Utusan to pen a report questioning their direction as well as warning that BN's credibility is at stake.
PETALING JAYA: Before the 2008 general election altered the Malaysian political landscape, the nation’s Tamil dailies were often viewed as being pro-Barisan Nasional but backing the different camps in MIC, centred on the protracted feud between its then president S Samy Vellu and his former number two S Subramaniam.
Back then, Indian votes were considered a fixed deposit for the ruling coalition and the opposition’s voice was insignificant.
Then came the Hindraf rally in 2007.
And in the ensuing national polls, the Indian community’s ballots were cast for the opposition, and a battered MIC landed in the political intensive care unit, and still showed little signs of recuperation.
Following this, the Tamil dailies were forced to review their editorial policies in order to arrest their dwindling circulation.
Now, it was common to see Indian opposition leaders even being featured on the front-pages of these dailies, including in Tamil Nesan, owned by Samy Vellu’s family.
Currently, there are five dailies in the market. And the latest to join the bandwagon was Nam Naadu, linked to businessman Kenneth Easwaran, a close confidant of both Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor.
The shift in editorial policies prompted the Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia to publish an article yesterday questioning the direction of these Tamil dailies, apart from Nam Naadu of course.
‘Reports reeking of racism’
In the first paragraph, the Utusan article singled out Thina Kural, which it claimed hammered the government on a daily basis and churned out reports reeking of racism.
Ironically, Utusan had also been often accused of consistently running down the opposition and publishing articles demeaning to the non-Malays.
Utusan claimed that Thina Kural’s main issue was the lack of Indians in the civil service and government agencies.
“Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad was considered ‘a poison for the community’ while numerous senior opposition leaders were portrayed as good role models,” it stated.
While Utusan claimed that both Thina Kural and Makkal Osai could be forgiven for their opposition leanings due to the people behind these dailies, it however questioned Tamil Nesan’s rationale in following a similar editorial path.
The article claimed that the tone in Tamil Nesan no longer mirrored its image of being a pro-BN publication, despite being spearheaded by Samy Vellu’s son Vell Paari.
“The paper’s top brass even claimed that Umno was no longer the ‘big brother’ in BN,” it said.
Quoting the special affairs department JASA, Utusan said the former pointed out that the coverage provided for the opposition in Thina Kural and Makkal Osai was not as prominent as that for BN.
The department claimed that Thina Kural, which started its operations in February this year, led the pack with regard to “excessive coverage” for the opposition and blew up issues out of proportion.
Prominent coverage for Ambiga
JASA also noted that the Tamil dailies gave immense prominence to Bersih 3.0 chairperson S Ambiga since May 14.
“The playing up of statements by opposition leaders and NGOs on the ‘harassment’ faced by Ambiga captured the attention of a large portion of the Indian community, irrespective of political ideologies,” the department’s report stated.
“The dailies created the impressions that Ambiga was harassed because she was a Hindu… as well as that those responsible for the harassment received support from Umno,” it added.
The JASA report warned that the dailies’ articles were hurting BN’s credibility, especially with MIC being unable to portray itself as a strong and united party to counter the opposition’s allegations.
Makkal Osai, in an editorial today, defended its reporting, stating that it was merely highlighting the concerns of the community.