Wednesday, April 21, 2021

From a secret affair to wedding bells

Najib Razak certainly knows a lot more about us than he does about his own bank accounts.

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This month marks the sixth for us here at MalaysiaNow.

Six months for an organisation is a short period, even in these trying economic times.

But from the perspective of political news, it’s been long enough for some drastic changes to have taken place.

For example, what was once hushed up as a secret affair is now paraded with pride like an open declaration of love.

We are specifically referring to the letter by Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his predecessor Najib Razak declaring their support for Anwar Ibrahim. Of these three, one is fighting in court to avoid becoming a convict, one is already a convict, and the last, an ex-convict.

When we exposed the letter to the palace in October, some of the strongest attacks came from Najib himself and his sycophant followers.

Today, there is no inhibition from these three leaders in stating that their threesome would be good for the country.

The former prime minister has also made it his responsibility to dedicate time and effort to unearthing MalaysiaNow’s financial and organisational backgrounds.

Just last weekend, he posted screenshots of our pages, accompanied by details of the owner’s identity.

This is a far cry from someone who was unaware that millions of dollars had made their way into his bank account.

Digging into a company’s ownership is a walk in the park; all it takes is a small fee at the Companies Commission or a look at the site’s About Us page.

But knowing that one’s bank account has been credited with cash takes no effort at all, and it’s free. Many Malaysians struggling to make ends meet check their bank accounts on a weekly, if not monthly, basis. Not a single entry in the credit column escapes their notice although they pretend not to look at withdrawals.

Najib’s defence, of course, failed to get him off the hook in his RM42 million SRC International case. He was found guilty of all seven charges related to the money.

For someone who made global headlines over his involvement in what US authorities describe as one of the biggest financial scandals they have ever dealt with, it takes extraordinary guts to lecture others on how to deal with the financial impact of Covid-19.

Yet his attempts at a comeback have been encouraged by the soundbytes he uploads on social media and a ready audience waiting to cheer him on without bothering to check his facts.

Over the past two weeks, Najib has made several criticisms of the government’s Covid-19 battle by banking on misinformation and twisting the facts.

But his version of events often go unchallenged, barring one recent response from Khairy Jamaluddin regarding allegations that the government’s vaccination rate is behind schedule.

Again – pretty revealing for a leader who rushed through an “anti-fake news” law at a time when it was least needed.

But that’s how politicians behave, whether on Facebook, Twitter or other forms of digital banter. They thrive on cheers from an audience that spends more time clicking the “like” button than googling for clarification.

Six months ago, we set out on a quest to write news as it is, without owing anything to politicians, political parties or interest groups.

In doing so, we decided to stay very much behind the camera.

We know that this may not be possible under the present circumstances, when politicians incite against journalists and news organisations (and with no response from “press freedom activists” who selectively jump to defend their own).

But here’s a hint: when the camera is turned on us, we feel obliged to check the person behind the lens.

And that is what we will be doing in the weeks to come.

Abdar Rahman Koya is CEO & editor of MalaysiaNow.

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