Something to like: Friends of Captain Zaharie MH370 Facebook page

If you are family or friend of Captain Zaharie, the pilot of MH370 that went missing more than 10 days ago and feel that much of what is being said about him was unfair, careless or plain sensationalism, what would you do?

You could face the media but that would be a huge strain. The pressure would be enormous, you would be subjected to a public inquisition and a small slip of the tongue could crucify you and reflect badly on the Captain. And even if you are good with the media you could still be subject to misinterpretation and misquotes.

Yet you feel that you need to set the record straight on some matters. In the captain’s case, some media reported that authorities raided his house and confiscated his home-made simulator when apparently the facts are that they want to the house and respectfully asked if they could inspect it. Th family cooperated fully and even helped to dismantle it. It was a picture of cooperation, not of authorities busting into the defensive home of a political fanatic.

What do you do? For Captain Zaharie’s family and friends their answer lies with starting a Facebook Page “Friends of Captain Zaharie MH370“.


It would have been better if they had identified who exactly was hosting the page to give it more credibility but under the circumstances this was enough and they have taken to providing information and clearing the air about misreports and misinterpretations.

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This is smart use of social media during a crisis-like situation and corporations would do well to take a leaf from the Captain’s family and friends for their own crisis moments.

And why not? The Internet now allows almost anyone to own their own media. You could, in short order, set up a blog or reconfigure your webpage, set up a Facebook page and a twitter account, or use your existing one with a particular hashtag to do what the Captain’s friends have just done.

What you can do then is post notes to inform or announce information, or correct misinformation. If you want to go further you could also post your own videoclips and even open up a “press room” where you take the media’s questions and answer them through the net. The journalists would not like this very much as it takes too much control out of them, but what choice do they have if that is the only source of timely information from you?

This is not to say that a corporation should eschew the traditional face-to-face interviews, briefings and press conferences but social media now allows you to have a medium where you too can be a broadcaster to take the monopoly of power from the mass media.

Yet this is something corporations don’t do enough when confronted with emergencies and it because bad habits are hard to break, or that they feel that they are not engaging enough unless you do things in the real rather than the virtual world?








Don’t let fake passports story waylay the search and rescue efforts of MH370


The most dreaded media question by politicians in the West whenever there is a crisis is:” Will you resign your position to take responsibility for this incident/travesty/failure?”

But that’s the West. Here in the East journalists, even Western ones operating here under work permits controlled by governments, are better mannered and avoid such confrontationist approaches. This is all very good, but sometimes it makes it difficult to ascertain where the buck stops.

Take, for instance, the apparent failure of Malaysian immigration officials to intercept two apparently Asian-looking  men who were travelling under the fake identities of stolen Austrian and Italian passports.

The Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was right to fume to national newswire Bernama: “I am still puzzled how come (immigration officers) cannot think, an Italian and Austrian (passengers) but with Asian facial features.” It is, of course, not impossible that there are Italians and Austrians with Asian features, but they must be a minority and should have tripped off some alarm bells.

The Minister has rightfully called for a probe into the immigration officials at the KL International Airport branch.

Then the narrative takes a strange turn. The Department of Civil Aviation was asked to comment on the Minister’s remarks. The DCA’s director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman declined commenting on the case with the line: “I will not reveal too much on the two passengers still under investigation, as it might jeopardise the investigation.”

That is a strange response because the Immigration Department in Malaysia is under the Home Ministry. Azharuddin could have easily have said: “I cannot comment on the Immigration Department, you’d have to ask the Home Minister/director-general of Immigration about that,” and got away with it. This is because the DCA is under the Transport Ministry, not the Home Ministry. And the Immigration Department is under the Home Ministry.

It is a basic rule of media training, in normal times but especially in crisis-like situations, that you never speak in someone else’s behalf.

But Azharuddin did. So, to a layperson looking in, the lines are now blurred. If there is a failure in immigration procedures and security, whose responsibility should it be? Would it be the responsibility of the Home Minister or the Transport Minister?

Should they take the responsibility because this failure, if it turns out to be one, happened on their watch, or should officials lower down who are more responsible for the failure take the rap?

This question will be floating around in the media for the next few days and, if not handled properly, might escalate as the MH370 crisis, as Unspun wrote in a previous posting, would now be entering Stage 3 – the finger pointing stage.

This matter needs to be handled skilfully so that it would not get to the point that it saps energy and resources away from the main tasks at hand: the  rescue or recovery of MH370 and its passengers and crew; taking care of the families and loved ones and communicating to the public to assure them that everything possible is being done to find MH 370 and the people in it.

DCA keeps mum over minister’s revelation on dubious duo on MH370


A relative of a passenger on the missing Malaysian Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 watches DCA director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman during a televised news conference at the Everly Hotel in Putrajaya March 10, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

A relative of a passenger on the missing Malaysian Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 watches DCA director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman during a televised news conference at the Everly Hotel in Putrajaya March 10, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

SEPANG, March 10 — Malaysian authorities today refused to verify a minister’s claims that the two passengers who boarded missing MAS flight MH370 using stolen passports had “Asian” features, saying that they did not want to jeopardise ongoing investigations.Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said that it would be premature for him to comment on the claim, made last night by Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

“I will not reveal too much on the two passengers still under investigation, as it might jeopardise the investigation,” he said, refusing to entertain repeated questions on the matter.

Ahmad Zahid made the revelation last night when announcing an internal probe on the Immigration Department over the incident.

“I am still puzzled how come (immigration officers) cannot think, an Italian and Austrian (passengers) but with Asian facial features,” he was quoted by national newswire Bernama.

Ahmad Zahid noted that the ongoing investigation is being carried out by a special team led by the department’s director-general Datuk Aloyah Mamat, and will focus on their Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) branch.

To a question on whether immigration officers on duty on the morning the flight went missing had cross-checked the passport details with Interpol’s database, Azharuddin again declined comment, saying that he could not say much on the matter for the time being.

“That is the duty of the investigating team to determine what happened that morning,” he said.

Azharuddin also sidestepped repeated questions on the level of security at KLIA following the discovery of the two yet-to-be-identified passengers on the missing flight, insisting that they adhere to international standards.

“The security deployed now at KLIA complies with international security standards. The DCA has done surveillance and audit of KLIA, and we have been audited by the United States and Australian security offices,” he said.

Speculation of possible foul play in the disappearance of MH370 is mounting after ticketing information showed the duo who boarded using the stolen passports had purchased one-way tickets.

Yesterday, investigations into the plane’s disappearance were expanded to include the possibility that it suffered a mid-air explosion, news agency Reuters reported citing sources.

Flight MH370 has now been missing for more than two days since it lost contact after departing Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing, China on March 8.

There were 239 people on board, including 12 crew members.

Are Buzzers worth hiring at all?

The real question that needs to be asked is: “Are Buzzers worth hiring at all?”

All but the most naive of Indonesia’s Twittersphere have come to realise that these Buzzers are all hired guns and will tweet on any product – politicians, soap, aphrodisiacs, milk, slimming powders, you name it – for the right price.

Knowing this they don’t believe them or are not influenced by their endorsers. So why pay for buzzers at all?

The reason why so many politicians and brand managers still do is that they are lazy and have no clue how to connect with today’s savvy, hyperlinked and skeptical audiences.

They can’t get their act together to figure who their actual audience is, what makes them tick and how generate their own content that is relevant and engaging.

So they take the easy way out and hire Buzzers. The question that arises here is why aren’t the CEOs wise to this and put a stop to this futile practice?

Media monitor gives Twitter advice to political parties | The Jakarta Post.

Political parties and politicians need to consider more than just how many followers as Twitter user has when looking at hiring “buzzers” for the 2014 general election, a media monitoring company says.

“The number of followers alone does not guarantee the success of engagement created via the buzzer. There are other factors to analyze and measure,” Awesometrics business analyst Hari Ambari said in an official release on Wednesday.

Awesometrics gave a number of examples, such as actor Ringgo Agus Rahman who charged Rp 5 million per message on Twitter to promote a campaign to his 1.7 million followers, while professional corporate worker Henry Manampiring could charge between Rp 5 million and Rp 15 million to “buzz” his 70,000-plus followers.

The comparison clearly showed that users with larger amounts of followers did not always receive higher prices for a “buzz”.

Hari said political parties and politicians who wished to use buzzers had to consider four other factors: the Twitter user’s potential reach, reputation, usual topics and engagement with their followers.


Jilbab Hitam Unveiled?

It appears that the identity of Jilbab Hitam, the nom de plume of a putative ex-Tempo reporter who caused an uproar  in the Indonesian online and journalism communities when he accused Tempo and its editors of trying to shake down Mandiri in a posting in

That posting has been taken down long ago but in another posting in Kompasiana by Sutomo Paguchi  who describes himself as a citizen journalist in Padang, and advocate, a nonpartisan and who writes for recreational purposes, he claims that Jilbab Hitam has been identified as an reporter who had been dismissed for shaking down Karakatau Steel when it had its IPO.

The author also posts a press release, apparently from the writer’s workplace IDEA Group, saying that the writer has admitted to being Jilbab Hitam. They said they were not involved in the authorship of the controversial article and that the writer has left its employment.

All very good. But that hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from trying to hunt down what it perceives to be the true motive of Jilbab Hitam. The speculation was that he was paid to do the hatchet job. But by whom?

Nobody is naming any names yet but one or a few will probably crop up soon.







Strange things on the Net: Jilbab Hitam, Tempo, Abraham Samad, SBY

Strange things are happening on the Net in Indonesia.

The latest is the kerfuffle on Twitter yesterday after a putative ex-Tempo journalist with the nom de plume Jilbab Hitam wrote in a blogpost accusing Tempo and the other large newspapers of systematically extorting money and being in collusion with vested powers.

The post was taken down from its blog. It appeared briefly in Kompasiana and then was taken down. A copy now resides in Rima. news (click here). The articles named names, some of which are the most respected in journalism; made accusations and also dragged in a prominent ex-journalist turned researcher as well as a columnist turned researcher.

Reaction to the posting has been mixed but noisy. Some jumped straight away to condemning the accused prominent media and journalists. Others claimed it was an act of fitnah (libel). Others too the cautious time-will-tell route and asked the media houses named to tell their side of the story, even against an anonymous writer.

In an era when the even the highest institutions of law such as the Constitutional Court are enmeshed in allegations of corruption, one does not know what to believe.

Similarly confusing and seemingly improbably was an article in Kabarnet yesterday where the head of the Anti Corruption Commission (KPK) Abraham Samad apparently railed and threatened President SBY with arrest. Kabarnet quoted a Twitter account apparently belonging to Abraham Samad, but the article did not say whether it tried to verify that the Tweets were from Abraham Samad or whether his account was hijacked.

These are strange days on the Net, that was once supposed to unleash an era of openness and transparency now pulls a veil of confusion over its Netizenry. What is one to make of these stories?

Senior media relations specialist wanted

We at Maverick are looking for a senior media relations specialist.

The job requires the specialist to know the who’s who of the Indonesian media and of the foreign media corps in Jakarta and developments in the media industry. The specialist will act as an internal consultant to Maverick in developing and executing media and engagement strategies on behalf of clients.

The specialist will also oversee the production of Maverick’s monthly newsletter Media Flash (latest copy below), that chronicles the goings on in the media industry.

So job, in short, involves schmoozing but lots of hard work and intelligence in winning the trust and confidence of top journalists, so that when we go to them they know that we have a solid and newsworthy story to tell.

The job is probably most suitable for a journalist working in the local media with 4-5 years experience, who wants a change of scene or who wants to acquire skills in addition to news gathering and writing to put in their resumes. If interested please email us at:

Mav_Media Flash_3










Inside the mind of the self-censors

Unspun‘s often wondered what makes a self-perceived journalist want to be a practicing journalist in Singapore or Malaysia today, when you know before you plunge in that you will have to self-censor or be censored.

Why go in to the lion’s den and then after that complain about the nature of the lion? Is it masochism or idealism, of the highest order of bravery or misplacement, that spurs these young men and women to take up the calling?

Unspun was once in the former category as a journalist in Malaysia but that was before Operasi Lallang, when the Press was emasculated and there was still room to maneuver in spite of the attempts of self-censorship.

But one wonders these days how much room there is left to rage against the dying of the light of press freedom in those countries?

Singapore journalist on self-censorship: we can’t be controversial, we have to play the game 

In this interview, a former reporter for broadcaster and publisher MediaCorp, who wished to remain anonymous, talks to Mumbrella about one of the most sensitive issues for the media in Singapore – self-censorship.

Mumbrella’s Asia editor Robin Hicks spoke to a reporter who covered the last elections about how to play the news-getting game in Singapore, being labelled a ‘government mouthpiece’, and what the new regime for news websites really means.

It is said that Singaporeans learn from a very early age what what is politically acceptable to say in public. If true, would you say that this self-censorship is taken by young journalists into news rooms in Singapore?

George Yeo: founding father of Singapore's 'OB markers'

A long-standing part of our social education is that there are certain things you have to treat sensitively, for the sake of racial harmony and societal stability. But at school, we were never told in an overt way that we could not comment on race or religion. It was only after I had studied overseas, in Australia, that I really became aware that there was such a thing as ‘OB markers’ [a term first used in 1991 by the then foreign minister George Yeo, to describe the boundaries for political discourse in Singapore].

The internet changed everything. Singaporeans were shown a different view of our media and how it works. Foreign commentators were saying our media is repressed. That it’s a government controlled monopoly. But I already knew, as most people did, that there was a gap in how our political news was being reported.

As a young reporter starting out, I was conscious that I might be controlled. I was concerned that I would not be able to do good journalism. But I had come back to Singapore from overseas because I felt that I could not change the country I love as an outsider. And I guess I was quite idealistic then, as were many of my peers. I was determined not to self-censor. But with the way the mainstream press works in Singapore, in some ways self-censorship is inevitable.

Read more

Appalling malls

Interesting article but isn’t an important question being left out in this article here? What sort of spatial planning does the city have or implements to allow that many malls? If only journalists would ask the right questions, we can hope to have a better city.

Jakarta’s Mall Boom Driven by Foreign Retailers | The Jakarta Globe

Just when you thought Jakarta may sink beneath the combined mass of the city’s 130-plus malls, a further 313,500 square meters of retail space has been announced, with just three large malls contributing 83 percent of the increase.

The largest of them is St. Moritz in West Jakarta with 129,200 square meters, followed by Ciputra World in South Jakarta and Green Bay Mall in West Jakarta, with 78,000 and 52,000 square meters respectively. St. Moritz is being built by Lippo Karawaci, while Agung Podomoro is the developer of Green Bay Mall.

Ferry Salanto, the director of research at Colliers International Indonesia, said that the developers of those three malls have strategies in place to secure tenants for their malls.

“If they hadn’t secured tenants they would not build the malls,” Ferry said last week.

Local developers have their own flagship tenants when opening up new malls, such as Lippo’s deal with Debenhams and Parkson, and Ciputra’s with Lotte.

Artadinata Djangkar, a director at Ciputra Property, which is responsible for Ciputra World, said the entrance of foreign retailers has increased demand for more retailing space in Jakarta.

In the past two years alone, several international retailers have set sail for Indonesia. Besides South Korea’s Lotte, there is Parkson from Malaysia, Japan’s Aeon and Thailand’s Sentral Group.

The presence of these chains creates lucrative business opportunities for local developers. Ciputra World 1 will cost its developer Ciputra $130 million, while Lippo’s St. Moritz mall is a part of the $1.2 billion mixed-use St. Mortiz Penthouses & Residences project.

Setyo Maharso, the chairman of Indonesian Real Estate Association (REI), said that the strong demand for retailing space is tracking a steadily growing property market. “It is because [malls] are the supporting facilities of neighborhoods and cities,” he added.

With strong economic growth and rising purchasing power, Setyo predicted that the property market will grow between 10 percent and 15 percent this year.

Colliers’ Ferry said that property developers still needed to advance their understanding of mall management in order to generate more revenue.

He said that there are two types of mall in operation in Jakarta, the first being “community malls,” whose visitors are mostly people from the surrounding area, and “destination malls,” which hope to attract visitors from distant areas.

Ferry said that mall construction will slow next year, due to the Jakarta government’s ongoing moratorium on mall construction, introduced in 2011.

He added the policy would encourage more malls to be constructed in regions surrounding Jakarta.

Ferry said that the four regions surrounding Jakarta tended to take turns to host new malls.

“This year, there are more new malls in Bekasi [then the other three regions]. We predict that in 2014, there will be more new malls in Tangerang,” Ferry said.


What the Press can do to prevent future Sleman Prison Attack

It always amazes Unspun how everyone in Indonesia, especially the politicians, excel at barking up the wrong tree whenever something big happens and they are suggesting ways to avoid future such incidents.

The Sleman Prison Attack (brow) is one such incident. As with the past the politicians are zeroing on the amorphous concept called the government, the lack of political will, the lack of enforcement etc etc.

All righteous sounding noises noises signifying nothing and eventuating in noting.

NEWS / World Gunmen overpower Indonesian prison guards, kill 4 detainees accused of murdering elite soldier Ambulances carrying the bodies of the victims of the pre-dawn attack on Cebongan prison leave the prison building in Sleman, Indonesia, Saturday, March 23, 2013. Indonesian police say a group of nearly 20 well-trained gunmen have stormed a jail on the main island of Java and executed four detainees accused of murdering a special forces soldier. (AP Photo/Slamet Riyadi)



There is something thatt the Fourth Estate, The Press, can do about it though and it is by adopting a simple question they often use for heads of organizations mired in scandal: “Sir, Will you resign from your position to take responsibility for this situation?”

It is simple, direct to the point and places accountability squarely on the shoulders of those who are responsible for the overall discipline and conduct of their organisations – the head of the organization.

Yet such questions are never asked in Indonesia by the media to the heads, in this case of the military and the police. As a result the concept of responsibility for things happening on their “watch” never gets fully realised and dissipates in the heat of the  rhetoric that accompanies each incident.

As a result the chiefs of the military and the police do not feel the heat even if their people killed others, or torch the rival’s organization, or commit cold blooded executions. They have no incentive to change things. Neither will thier successors because they know that they would not be held accountable.

Does anyone know what is stopping Indonesian journalists from asking such a simple question?

‘Weak’ State Blasted Over Sleman Prison Attack | The Jakarta Globe.

Lawmakers have lambasted the government for its failure to protect the public after a brutal attack on Cebongan Prison in Sleman, Yogyakarta, left four people dead.

An unidentified group of 17 gunmen, wearing face masks and carrying assault rifles, barged into the jail early on Saturday morning, threatening the wardens before executing four prisoners awaiting trial over the death of a soldier.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) secretary general Tjahjo Kumolo said on Sunday that the attack was a major embarrassment for the government.

“Revenge motives aside, this attack signifies an open attempt to disgrace the ruling government, in particular the Justice and Human Rights Ministry,” he said, warning a spate of similar violence could now be triggered.

Tjahjo called for all parties caught up in the attack — from Cebongan correctional authorities to the Indonesian military — to be transparent and ready for a full investigation into what happened.

“This incident indicates there is something wrong with the system,” he said.

Tjahjo noted a similar case in Papua, where an army post was attacked by rebels, remained unsolved, as did an attack on a police station in Poso, Central Sulawesi.

Comr. Gen. Sutarman, the National Police’s chief of criminal investigations, said that he had sent a team of officers to look into the incident.

“The National Police will provide backup for this case. The team is being led by [head of general crime] Brig. Gen. Ari Dono,” he said, adding that the police were still examining the crime scene and had yet to identify the assailants.

Fadli Zon, the deputy chairman of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), said that the country was being taken over by “mafia.”

“I’ve never heard of such incidents except in action movies,” he said in a statement on Sunday. “The state is powerless and weak in the face of the armed forces. Rule of law is absent and undignified.”

Fadli said the government must take the executions seriously, and demanded swift steps to apprehend the culprits and ensure that such a shocking attack didn’t happen again.

“If not taken seriously, the public will lose confidence in law enforcers and they will take justice into their own hands,” he said. “This brutal incident shouldn’t have happened in Indonesia.”

Separately, Gerindra lawmaker Martin Hutabarat said vigilante acts usually stemmed from a lack of respect for the legal system, which was considered unable — or unwilling — to punish offenders.

“If the people trust our law enforcers, this incident wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

Tubagus Hasanuddin, deputy chairman of House Commission I on defense, also called for a strong response from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“This case is not just a matter of discipline. This is an attempt to fight the government. The president must be firm when dealing with this case,” he said on Sunday.

The public had a right to feel terrorized, Tubagus added, with gunman wielding an arsenal of weaponry and taking over a high-security prison with ease.

“Where’s the control [from the army and police]? The state can be considered negligent,” he said.

The Cebongan attack is believed to be linked to a murder at a Slemen club, Hugo’s Cafe, early on Tuesday morning. Special Forces (Kopassus) soldier First Sgt. Heru Santosa allegedly was stabbed to death when he tried to break up a fight at the venue.

Sleman Police arrested four men in connection with the murder: Hendrik Angel Sahetapi, 31; Yohanes Juan Mambait, 38; Gameliel Yermianto Rohi Riwu, 29; and Adrianus Candra Galaja, 33.

Around 1:15 a.m on Saturday morning the jail was stormed by men claiming they were police. After unsuccessfully trying to move the suspects out of their cells, they opened fire, killing all four.

Those behind all the stupid advice Najib gets?

Unspun’s often wondered where Malaysian Premier Najib Abdul Razak gets all the awful PR advice here and here. Now we know. The article below was in the March 9th edition of The Wall Street Journal.

Should Malaysian citizens file a class action suit for wholesale incompetence while spending the taxpayers’ money?

Malaysia’s U.S. Propaganda –

A general election is expected next month in the Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia, and that usually means political shenanigans—abuse of national security laws, media manipulation and character assassination. After the last election in 2008, when the ruling coalition barely held on to power, public anger at such practices prompted Prime Minister Najib Razak to redraft laws and reform the electoral system. However, new revelations that his government paid American journalists to attack opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim raise questions whether those changes went far enough.

In January, conservative American blogger Joshua Treviño belatedly registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, revealing that from 2008-2011 he was paid $389,724.70, as well as a free trip to Malaysia, to provide “public relations and media consultancy” services to the Malaysian government.

These consisted of writing for a website called Malaysia Matters, now defunct, as well as channeling $130,950 to other conservative writers who wrote pro-government pieces for other newspapers and websites. When questioned in 2011 by the Politico website about whether Malaysian interests funded his activities, Mr. Treviño flatly denied it: “I was never on any ‘Malaysian entity’s payroll,’ and I resent your assumption that I was.”

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Associated Press

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim

The campaign was more targeted than the Malaysian ruling coalition’s domestic attacks on Mr. Anwar. Mr. Treviño’s site mainly went after the opposition leader for anti-Semitic remarks and his alliance with the Islamist party PAS, and even accused him of links to terrorists through the International Institute of Islamic Thought. Mr. Anwar has made anti-Semitic comments—though that’s in part to fend off domestic accusations that he’s too cozy with Zionists. He also has ties to organizations that have taken Saudi money, but the suggestion that he somehow has “ties to terrorism” is preposterous.

The site also defended an outrageous charge of sodomy brought against Mr. Anwar from 2008-2012, and it criticized the U.S. State Department and The Wall Street Journal for taking Mr. Anwar’s side. These postings were clearly aimed at sowing doubt among other would-be Anwar defenders in the U.S., especially on the right of the U.S. political spectrum.

Mr. Treviño paid other writers who know almost nothing about Malaysia but mimicked his propaganda. The New Ledger, edited by Ben Domenech, was even more vociferous, calling Mr. Anwar a “vile anti-Semite and cowardly woman-abuser.” One posting was entitled, “Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorist money flowing to Anwar Ibrahim.” According to Mr. Treviño’s filing, he paid Mr. Domenech $36,000 for “opinion writing.” Three contributors of anti-Anwar items to the New Ledger—Rachel Motte, Christopher Badeaux and Brad Jackson—were paid $9,500, $11,000 and $24,700 respectively.

Mr. Treviño was initially paid by public relations multinational APCO Worldwide, which had a longstanding contract with the Malaysian government. APCO’s Kuala Lumpur representative through 2010, Paul Stadlen, now works in Prime Minister Najib’s office. David All, who at the time ran his own PR firm and collaborated on Malaysia Matters, also provided cash.

But from 2009-11, the Malaysian money came through Fact-Based Communications, which under the leadership of journalist John Defterios produced programs on client countries for CNN, CNBC and the BBC. After this was revealed in 2011, the three networks dropped all FBC programs, and Atlantic Media Company President Justin Smith resigned from its board.

Influence-peddling has a long and sordid history in Washington, and governments that use repressive methods at home yet want to remain on friendly terms with the U.S. typically have the biggest bankrolls. It’s not unheard of for PR operators to pay less reputable journalists and think-tankers to write favorable coverage, as the Jack Abramoff case in the mid-2000s showed.

The Malaysian scheme, however, is notable because it drew in respected writers such as Rachel Ehrenfeld, who has contributed to the Journal in the past and took $30,000, Claire Berlinski, who got $6,750, and Seth Mandel, an editor at Commentary magazine, who was paid $5,500. Some of the articles appeared in well-known publications such as National Review and the Washington Times.

Mr. Najib’s falling popularity at home suggests his days as Prime Minister could be numbered. The irony is that he was more democratic and played a more responsible role in the region than his predecessors. Even opposition figures have quietly admitted to us that he has steered Malaysia in the right direction. That should have been more than enough for a legitimate public relations operation to work with. Resorting to underhanded tactics to undermine the opposition has only backfired for Mr. Najib, at home and abroad.

A version of this article appeared March 9, 2013, on page A12 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Malaysia’s U.S. Propaganda.


Bloomberg TV in Indonesia – how should businesses cope?

One for the record. Will this up the game for TV business news reporting in Indonesia? What would it mean for companies operating here? Do they need to have better media handling skills to take advantage of this development?


Bloomberg Television Expands to Indonesia, 21 Years After Bureau Opening | The Jakarta Globe.

Bloomberg LP will start broadcasting Bloomberg Television Indonesia in May, more than 20 years after the financial news and information giant opened a bureau in the world’s fourth-most populous country and Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

Andrew Lack, chief executive of Bloomberg Media Group, said that Indonesia had huge potential as a market for media content. Bloomberg LP established the Bloomberg Media Group — a combination of its television, print, radio, mobile and digital media properties — in 2011.

Indonesia’s economy grew 6.2 percent in 2012, among the fastest in the Asia-Pacific region and faster than developed economies in Europe and North America. Among the 10 Asean member states, only the Philippine economy expanded at a faster pace.

“When you are in the finance and business information business, you’ve been watching Indonesia in the past several years … I ask, ‘How do I get to Indonesia and how soon?’” Lack said on Thursday.

A survey by market researcher Nielsen in 2010 estimated that there were around 50 million TV viewers in Indonesia, of which around three million were pay TV viewers. Indonesia has a population of more than 240 million people. Bloomberg LP says on its website that the Bloomberg Television network is available in more than 310 million homes worldwide.

To set up its Indonesia operation, Bloomberg Television has formed a partnership with Idea Group, a media holding company backed by Recapital Group, which is headed by Sandiaga Uno and Rosan Roeslani. Idea Group was also behind the creation of the online marketplace

Adithya Chandra Wardhana, the chief executive of Bloomberg Television Indonesia, said that it planned to work with existing broadcast companies in Indonesia on free-to-air, pay TV, Internet and mobile platforms.

Adithya said that the company had secured a deal with local regional television networks such as Jakarta TV in the capital region, Surabaya TV in East Java and Depok TV in West Java. Bloomberg Television Indonesia is also in talks with Makassar TV to provide content for the eastern part of the country.

Bloomberg Television Indonesia is also in talks with several major pay television networks, Adithya said, but declined to name them, as the deals have yet to be finalized. “We target middle-, upper-class and affluent audiences. We will be the only television network that specializes in business and financial news here,” he said.

“We will create business content in Bahasa Indonesia, about 80 percent local and 20 percent international.”

The company has recruited Kania Sutisnawinata and Tomy Tjokro, both of whom are former Metro TV news anchors, and 50 other journalists.

Bloomberg Television Indonesia will also air live from the Indonesia Stock Exchange every day to its global network, which is expected to benefit Indonesia.

“I think Indonesia will benefit most from the exposure that we bring,” said Parameshwaran Ravindranathan, head of Asia Pacific for Bloomberg Television, based in Hong Kong.

The vibrancy of The Jakarta Globe’s editorial pages

The vibrancy of a newspaper’s opinion page usually lies with the letters to the editor, arguing for or against a proffered opinion from its stable of writers.

By this measure The Jakarta Globe certainly has a vibrant editorial page, if only online.

The recent opinion piece by Berita Satu Media Holdings group publisher (below) is unorthodox, to say the least, in the ideas it expresses but the real gem there are the comments that its readers have posted. Not since the Globe’s Lady Gaga editorial has The Jakarta Globe attracted such diverse comments.

So Bravo Jakarta Globe for the vibrancy and efforts to keep free speech alive. Make sure you click on the link and go to the comments.

Letter to the Editor: For Jakarta Deputy Governor, a Post-Meeting Memo | The Jakarta Globe

Thursday afternoon, at around 6:15 p.m., was a painful moment for me, a resident of Jakarta who had the noble intention of meeting with his deputy governor to provide input on efforts to overcome the city’s many problems. I appreciated the fact that Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama clearly wanted to engage with citizens and had quickly agreed to the meeting. But the experience soon turned into a bitter one because of the inappropriate behavior of the deputy governor and the presence of individuals who were not officials but who appeared to have an exclusive right to be inside the working office of the deputy governor.

As a citizen hoping for a sign that there would be something different compared to the leadership of the previous governor, I came with ideas I thought worthy of consideration — such as a short-term answer to Jakarta’s notorious traffic congestion.

I am fully aware that I am no expert in city planning, or an expert in overcoming transportation problems. But as a resident of the city, I feel called to contribute to progress. The idea proposed may not have been a holistic solution, but a leader should at some point have the courage to make a decision, no matter how hard this is, rather than basking in a never-ending discourse. Residents are tired of hearing their leaders complain or blame each other. What residents are waiting for are breakthrough policies that could at least signal that there is an effort by the government to improve conditions.

Back to the atmosphere at the meeting that afternoon.

After some brief small talk, I presented the idea to help reduce congestion through vehicle-color-based restrictions on certain roads — an idea that I have presented on various occasions since 2010. For this Thursday afternoon, I had prepared a paper explaining this effort, which I was to hand over to the deputy governor after the brief presentation.

The gist of my thinking is that whatever the policy undertaken by the government, it should at least show the public that it has the courage to try and take steps that could be implemented in a brief period of time. The most logical solution, I think, is to manage the traffic based on a restriction on vehicles. Of course, the government should at the same time work hard to prepare a solution that is more holistic and long-term.

However, I had not even completed my explanation of the main points before the deputy governor interrupted to say that there already is an abundance of studies on how to alleviate the city’s congestion. Some in a regulatory form, others involving a rejuvenation of the fleet of city buses and also long-term solutions through better management of macro transportation patterns. But whichever choice is made, these are not short-term solutions, as all would need time. Each proposal has its own weakness and could prompt protests from the public if implemented.

I do understand what the deputy governor was saying about the difficulties the authorities were facing, but as a leader, it would have been great if the deputy governor had been able to listen enthusiastically and respectfully — paying full attention to his conversation partner and allowing him to make his point.

But what happened instead? The deputy governor’s warm and friendly welcome was quickly overshadowed by a situation that was certainly not worthy of a deputy governor and his close entourage. While I was explaining the reasons for the visit that afternoon — to try and help create short-term breakthroughs to curb traffic congestion — the deputy governor was busy typing on his BlackBerry.

I initially thought the deputy governor was busy processing my input, but it turned out that he was in fact communicating with others. Even more painful was that while the deputy governor was busy with his own thoughts, a member of his staff repeatedly interrupted the conversation and addressed the deputy governor using the “loe-gue” jargon for “you” and “me.” I really did not get the impression that I was in the office of a deputy governor. Civility and protocol were simply ignored. This is something that is unacceptable in our culture.

The deputy governor’s attempt to strive for egalitarianism, to not overly crave respect and to try to avoid excessive protocol is commendable and should be supported. However, this does not mean that in a civilized society, the deputy governor’s working environment can do away with the spirit of respecting the institution of a deputy governor as a symbol of leadership. The loe-gue jargon is perfectly acceptable in daily interaction, but it is not appropriate for use in the official environment of a leader like the capital city’s deputy governor.

The encounter offers a valuable lesson for those who have chosen to dedicate their lives to public service: learn to be a role model for the people, learn to listen. And stop complaining and blaming each other, because now is the time to really do something.

Peter F. Gontha is the group publisher of BeritaSatu Media Holdings, of which the Jakarta Globe is a part.