Stop using media as punching bag when all else fails

The word “misreporting” must be clearly defined. Seriously.

While many take it to mean what it is – to give a false, or inaccurate report of something – there are those who use it as a catchphrase, a sort of ‘Get out of jail’ card, when things don’t go their way.

It’s the easiest, and possibly the oldest trick in the book. If you’re facing public backlash over a quote or your remarks, just blame the media for “misreporting”, “misquoting”, or “taking comments out of context”.

The latest individual to pull the “misreporting” card from out of his sleeve is Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang.

The Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (ACAB) chairman, in a press conference yesterday, said that his 13-page media statement on the controversy surrounding embattled Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki – issued and distributed on Jan 5 – was not “fully reported by some media, so as to contribute to misconceptions among the public.”

The Jan 5 press conference was held regarding the shares allegedly held by Azam.

Three days later (Jan 8) six ACAB members – Tan Sri Ismail Omar, Datuk Seri Azman Ujang, Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar, Datuk Dr Hamzah Kassim, Datuk David Chua Kok Tee and Prof Datuk Dr Mohammad Agus Yusoff – collectively distanced themselves from Abu Zahar’s statement.

So, did the six ACAB members read Abu Zahar’s 13-page statement? As ACAB members, they should rightfully be among the first to read the contents of the statement. If they did, then their follow-up statement could not have been based on “misreporting”, now, could it?

Also, why didn’t Abu Zahar take questions from the press?

Abu Zahar said Azam had clarified to ACAB on Nov 24 that his shares account had been used by his brother to purchase shares in 2015. Why didn’t ACAB make public the matter earlier? Is this a case of being reactive, instead of proactive?

Abu Zahar’s complaints aside, there are those who regard the media with disdain and contempt, labelling it as a government mouthpiece, or being toothless. Some of these individuals claim to have more followers (bots and all) on their social media pages than the media, thus they don’t see the need to engage the Fourth Estate.

Yet, these same people jump and cry victim when the media reports it as it is. More so when those reports don’t favour them.

Access to the press is not constrained by ideology, political affiliations, sex, creed, colour, or what station you occupy in society.

Individuals and organisations are free to reach out and communicate with the press, but often do not, for reasons best known to themselves. And when things go pear-shaped, the media suddenly becomes the enemy.

Here’s a tip – when it comes to press conferences, get to the point.

And contrary to popular belief, you can deliver your point on one page. Anything more, can be distributed as a supplement to provide a contextual perspective.

When you invite journos, the floor should be opened for them to ask questions. One-way communication gives the impression that you can’t bear scrutiny; that you have something to hide.

And when all else fails, just come clean. Stop blaming the media.