Defterios, Bersih 2.0, Din Merican and the CNN Interview With Malaysian PM Najib

Posted on July 17, 2011



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It is no surprise when Blogger Din Merican commented on CNN anchorman interviwing PM Najib with regard to Bersih 2.0 on 9 July 2011. Merican insisted that CNN anchorman Defterios was being dismissive. There was no urgency for the anchorman to really “dig” in with probing questions during te course of his interview with Malaysian PM Najib Tun Razak. Defterios was just asking plain predetermined questions. No “digging” and no probing for the real reason why Bersih was staged in the first place. Indeed he was at that moment of time  just airing his master’s voice. That plain and that simple. Not much of a journalistic acumen.

His journalistic line of questioning during much of the interview was suspect. Probably he was too busy with the teleprompter infront of him or listening to his producer’s voice at the back of his “ears” so much so that he was not really interested in the interview and neither was he paying particular attention to the line of questioning. . There was the feeling that this low-graded anchorman was indeed following his master’s slanting journalistic command.

Let’s hear what Blogger Din Merican has to say on 16 July 2011 about CNN Defterios interview of what everyone in his true frame of journalistic mind  would find sub-standard as follows:

“Unanswered Questions from The CNN Interview with Prime Minister Najib

by Din Merican

CNN has demonstrated its unwillingness to pursue real standards of journalistic conduct and instead allows politicians and businessmen to use its global platform to essentially spot propaganda and unsubstantiated commentary on their policies and actions.

CNN International, with a few notable exceptions, is well known for its softball interview style,eagerness to avoid controversy and do what it takes to get “big interviews” even if it means downplaying or covering up some of the ugly facts of a story. The July 14 interview John Defterios conducted with PM Najib is a perfect example.

Defterios starts with a somewhat sarcastic positioning of the Bersih movement as an umbrella movement for electoral reform. His tone was dismissive of whether that premise was true, leading into Najib’s answer that Bersih was just a political maneuver. He asks what’s really behind this, mentioning a “generation” gap.

It is amazing that Defterios would not even make a reference to Bersih’s stated demands, which were spelled out very clearly in its manifesto readily available on its website. 8 simple demands for free and fair elections. His summer intern could have found them online along with the actual evidence.

Najib is committed to Electoral Reform?

Najib replies that he is committed to electoral reform but Defterios does not follow up with the obvious question, why has the PM refused to entertain any of the demands of the Electoral Reform movement? What steps have been taken to reform the electoral process since Bersih 1.0, the last General Election 2008,and the  recent Sarawak State election.

Moving along, when asked about the official response to the demonstrations Najib said the Police response was “mild” and they handled the situation delicately and without excessive force.

Defterios again fails in his duty as a journalist to ask about the tear gas, water cannons, injuries, attack on the hospital, police abuse of demonstrators, and completely ignored the fact that six people are still under arrest now under the Emergency Orders and more are being arrested for simply wearing yellow shirts, plus media have been chastised for reporting favorably on the rally.

In a slightly redeemable moment just prior to asking about the Police abuse during the rally, scenes of tear gas and water cannon were being played on the screen next to Najib’s headshot in a moment almost as entertaining as the 2007 Zam interview following Bersih 1.0, one of the first youtube videos in Malaysia to rocket to over 100,000 views in a few days time.

John Defterios is presumably reachable on his twitter handle @JDefteriosCNN although he has only tweeted once and not since January 20, which is odd given how active most other CNN hosts are on social media.

But then I am not surprised. This is because Defterios is part of what I would describe as a class of “journalistic courtiers” who speak and write from presuppositions and principles of corporate interest and political elites in the United States. They have stopped thinking and lost their moral autonomy.

Real reporting that should be grounded in a strong commitment to justice and empathy is something of the past. By clinging to outdated etiquette designed to serve the powerful and corporate interests in the United States, traditional media have lost their social function.

The same can be said of our very own media, the editors and journalists. If you do not believe me, just read Utusan Malaysia, The New Straits Times and The Star.”

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