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BLOG: A season of censorship

Zafar Anjum | March 12, 2012
When the new media moguls start their business, they make big talk. But once they reach the tipping point, they show their true colours.

When the new media moguls start their business, they make big talk. But once they reach the tipping point, they show their true colours.

Remember Rupert Murdoch? When he acquired his first British newspaper, the News of the World, in 1969, he wanted, as revealed by the paper's then editor, Stafford Somerfield, "to read proofs, write a leader if he felt like it, change the paper around and give instructions to staff". Objections to this attitude were met with a curt response: "I didn't come all this way not to interfere." (Censorship: A Beginner's Guide by Julian Petley). Is it some kind of poetic justice that the same Murdoch and his company have been facing government investigations in the U.K. and that particular British newspaper is now dead.

Here's another example of corporate-owned media's censorship by Petley, again from Murdoch's empire:

"In 1994 The Sunday Times ran a number of articles investigating possible links between British aid to Malaysia to enable it to build the Pergau dam, and a vast Malaysian arms contract placed with Britain. These revelations of arms-for-aid infuriated the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamed, and provoked a furious phone call to Murdoch, who shouted at Neil (Andrew Neil, the paper's editor): 'You're boring people! You're doing far too much on Malaysia. Page after page of it, which nobody can understand. Malaysia does not merit all this coverage...It's my fault, I've been letting you get on with it. But it's too much, it has to stop.' Shortly thereafter Neil left the Sunday Times. The following year, a British minister dining with the British High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur asked if the Malaysian government was still as hostile to British business interest as it has appeared to be in the wake of the Peragu revelations. The High Commissioner replied: 'Not since Murdoch fixed it with Mahathir. The Malaysian Prime Minister made it clear that Murdoch would never do business in his country as long as Andrew Neil was editor of the Sunday Times."

 At that time, Murdoch was expanding his satellite television interests in Southeast Asia. Clearly, Neil was sacrificed and that settled the matter.

Similarly, the people behind the Googles and Facebooks and Twitters of today would prefer their business interests over any kind of nice sounding values. Only we are so dumb that we are taken in by their high talk and by the time we realise the scale of the deceit, the new media companies would have made their billions.

Zafar Anjum is the online editor of MIS Asia, CIO Asia, Computerworld Singapore and Computerworld Malaysia.



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