Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin said Al-Jazeera's framing of events (in reference to the Nov 10 Bersih assembly and walk to Istana Negara to hand over its memorandum to the palace) portrayed Malaysia as an oppressive regime when "we are a progressive country that accepts and embraces democracy and modern values".
In a letter published by the New Straits Times daily today, Zainuddin said that "to make matters worse, it interviewed someone who is a card-carrying member of the opposition Democratic Action Party and misrepresented him as an independent journalist. (ZAM is referring to blogger Jeff Ooi, a long-serving Gerakan party activist, a component member of the ruling Barisan Nasional, who had recently crossed over to the DAP).
ZAM wrote the letter (reply) in reference to Tunku Abdul Aziz's comments entitled "Wrong to link the king to demo' (NST, Nov 18).
"I would like to state that we should consider ourselves fortunate that Al Jazeera presented us the opportunity to make known to it that we understand its role and goals. The interview during the Nov 10 illegal demonstration has exposed its perception of Malaysia and given the opportunity for me to correct its interpretation," he wrote.
ZAM claimed that the core of the problem with Al-Jazeera's reporting of the assembly organised by Bersih, was its lack of understanding of Malaysian history. (Peaceful demonstration were part of Malaysian history - eg to oppose Malayan Union and Communism and the visit of Condoleesa Rice where it was led by none other than Khairy Jamaluddin, the deputy Umno Youth leader and son-in-law of the Prime Minister)
"We were among the first in Asia to embrace free enterprise and free media, and a glance at our economic system would have shown that we had structured ourselves according to Western economic, financial and social precepts since independence.
"We are a free democracy and there is no need for it to present us as otherwise to the world, especially to Middle east viewers, which form the core of its audience."
On that background, ZAM thought it was clear that Al-Jazeera's reporting was 'provocative and questions from the anchor person were designed to force us to justify an illegal assembly'.
ZAM also claimed that he spoke clearly and directly, and while his presentation might not have been eloquent, it was something that needed to be said.
"I did not regret speaking to Al Jazeera. In fact, as the information minister, I felt that I had taken a golden opportunity to discharge my duty, by showing Malaysians that Al Jazeera was not the last word in fair and balanced reporting.
"But maybe those who are blinded by the image of Western democracy might not be able to see the true colours," ZAM concluded.
Please refer to New Straits Times (Nov 26) page 23 for the full text of ZAM's letter.