The heavy hand of the Malaysian government can be seen in the local media's response to the deportation of independent Senator Nick Xenophon over the weekend. Malaysian editors have confirmed to Crikey
they were told to insert certain lines into their coverage.
Editors were instructed to point out
Xenophon's well-documented anti-palm oil and pro-gay marriage stance, the rationale being that this would help undermine his position. Or, to put it delicately, paint Xenophon -- detained and deported on Sunday as a "security risk", the latest edition in a long-running series of government efforts to stifle dissenting voices -- as a foreign devil bent on smashing rice bowls and interfering with Malaysia’s economy and culture as well as its elections.
The Malay-language media took an even more outraged tone
, with quotes from various organisations asserting that Xenophon should be banned from entering the country as he "actively promotes LGBT activities" and "wayward culture". Many ran with a state-approved piece saying that Xenophon was found to be "detrimental to the country’s well-being
". The latter included quotes from former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who said the events would not jeopardise the relationship between the two countries -- and added Malaysia didn't need to entertain Australian criticism of its actions.
Selective perception was in fine form yesterday, as a piece in The Australian
attacking Xenophon proved popular in the Malaysian mainstream media. Most outlets
ran a piece by the state news agency Bernama that repeated some of The Oz
’s more astonishing generalisations -- among them that Malaysia is "one of the most democratic and freewheeling nations in Southeast Asia" and that its elections are "better than in most parts of the world".
The most recent US State Department human rights report on Malaysia
does a succinct job of refuting these claims, noting there are "obstacles preventing opposition parties from competing on equal terms with the ruling coalition".