The mainstream media has taken to the issue of a journalist Tan Hoon Cheng being arrested under ISA like a duck to water: the write ups were meticulous as a blog; the personal angle was most sympathetic; the support for her was reported in full. Yet there is an obvious blind spot: what does Tan and others think about ISA and its use/abuses?
There is an obvious damage control here: in at least 2 reports Bernama quoted Tan and her parents to express thank to the police and the people who are responsible for her arrest under ISA. Could she or the parents be thankful to the police for -quoting Tan’s parent, taking away Tan like in a `kidnapping’?
The principle issue of detention without trial -which is universally condemned as a violation of human rights, could be given some reference in the reports by the mainstream media. By not doing so the mainstream media is either sanitising the issue or sidestepping the principle issue here.
Such treatments are not uncommon among the mainstream media: policy debates which are overdue are not touched by their reports. Eg anti-poverty policy which reuire shifting resources from other policy items, are almost always avoided in favour of some poor folks being given a most personal write up. Zooming in the personal details seems to be a sure tactics to avoid the bigger picture.
The cruelty of ISA is not invisible even in Tan’s case: she was taken away without any preparation. As a career women she does have many commitment to attend to. If she need to answer to some legal issues why not just summon her to the police station at a convenient time. Surely she would not refuse to see the police to offer her help in any investigations.
Then she was taken away to an unknown place, without any timetable told to her. She was like being imprisoned -with her hand phone being switched off to cut her off from the rest of the world. What has she done to deserve this? She has not even been charged or convicted-yet she has started to experience the sentence! That is the cruelty of `detention without trial’!
After she was released she spoke for about 30 min to the press before she went off to a friend’s house to `avoid the press’. Why do she need to do that -she being a prefessional journalist herself? Given her training certainly she has no problem to handle her collegues’ quries! Was she warned not to touch on eg ISA? She was reported to say that the police gave her `good and professional’ treatment. Well, how `good’ is taking a person away without any idea where a person could be taken? How `good’ can the outing be when the journey may never return -given that many ISA detainees had been detained over 20 years?
The issue can be persued further-but I suppose readers can get the drift here up to this point.
To show that there are BN politicians who notice the gap in the ISA arrest rationalisation this is a call by Ahmad Shabbery Cheek:
September 14, 2008 00:36 AM
Police Should Give Explanation On Reporter’s Arrest, Says Shabery
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 (Bernama) — The police should give an explanation on the rationale behind the detention of Sin Chew Daily journalist, Tan Hoon Cheng, who was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA), said Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek.
He said it would be better if the police explaned the detention of Tan, instead of politicians giving their reasons.
He told this to reporters after attending a lantern carnival here Saturday night.
Also present was his deputy, Datuk Tan Lian Hoe.
Shabery said this in response to the statement made by Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar Saturday that Tan’s detention was part of the police’s swift action to ensure her safety after she received threatening calls.
Syed Hamid said police intelligence found the journalist’s life to be under threat after she reported about Bukit Bendera Umno chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail’s alleged racist remarks made during campaigning for the Permatang Pauh by-election last month.
However, Tan was released from the Penang police headquarters at about 2.30pm Saturday.
Shabery, who expressed gratefulness over the release of Tan, said the action clearly reflected that ISA detention was not a long-term punishment and was only to deter people from making statements that could jeopardise national security.