Fed up with what they see as biased and distorted reporting, a group of Malaysians has launched a campaign urging the public to boycott newspapers ahead of a general elections slated for March 2008. The mainstream print media is largely controlled by ruling coalition parties or business interests close to them. Already pro-establishment in their reporting, they usually turn into full-blown propaganda tools in the run up to elections.
The call for a "Paper Free Tuesday" --calling on the public to abstain from newspapers on Tuesdays, for a start--was launched on January 28 by a group calling itself the People's Parliament. It comprises Haris Ibrahim, a lawyer-cum-blogger; Helen Ang, an online columnist; and Bernard Khoo, a former teacher-turned-blogger.
The effectiveness of a boycott has been doubted, with reminders of how a media boycott in the late 1990s had a limited impact. But Ang is unfazed. "The scene has changed with advances in technology. We have bloggers picking up the news about the boycott. Mobile phone messages play a key role in mobilising the public to attend protest gatherings or boycott events," she said.