- Posted April 29, 2012 by
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Photo essays: Your stories in pictures
Malaysia BERSIH 3.0 Rally 2012
On April 28th, 2012, Malaysia held its third rally by the Bersih organization for free and fair elections in the form of Bersih 3.0. The word “Bersih” in Malay means clean and the organization’s goals is for revising the current electoral system of Malaysia. The organization held a rally last year on July 9th where a mixed race of Malaysians including Chinese, Indians, and Malays took to the streets in Kuala Lumpur. The government announced then that the rally was illegal for Bersih 2.0. This year the government gave permission for the rally however the venue of Dataran Merdeka was disputed.
Last year the Bersih organization wanted the Stadium Medeka to hold their rally however the government told them to go to Dataran Merdeka. This year they requested Dataran Merdeka hoping they will receive permission since they were told last year to go there. However after they were denied permission and offered the Stadium Merdeka as an alternative, the defiant organizers decided to gather at Dataran Merdeka.
The Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) barricaded the area around Dataran Merdeka in the early morning on Friday, April 27th. Meanwhile the Bersih 3.0 organizers identified six locations for protesters to gather before marching towards Dataran Merdeka for the following day.
The event was peaceful as protestors took pictures of the police when they reached the barricade around Dataran Merdeka. The Bersih co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan announced success and urged the crowd to disperse at 2:34 pm according to the independent site Malaysia Kini. At 2:45 pm a protester broke through the barricade to offer a purple flower as a sign of peace however the police held restraint over the trespass. Kuala Lumpur Police Chief Mohmad Salleh said the situation was under control until 2:55 pm.
Afterwards there have been unconfirmed reports of protesters breaching the barricade as the police riot units responded with chemical-laced water cannons and tear gas leading to the arrest of 338 protesters as of 8 pm yesterday. A police vehicle lost control killing one person while the police officers inside where taken to the hospital. Other incidents include the police throwing tear gas in crowded train stations to disperse the crowd.
Propaganda to Public Relations
Many media outlets in Malaysia are either directly owned by the Malaysian government or owned by component parties of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government called the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which is a right-wing Malay political party. These propaganda machines include Bernama, The Star, The Sun, and the New Strait Times.
Last year Bersih 2.0 highlighted the opposition’s growing strength since the 2008 General Elections where it won 37% of the parliamentary seats. The current administration under Prime Minister Najib Razak belongs to UMNO.
Last year during Berish 2.0, Bernama ran with the headlines “Illegal Rally: Don’t Be Fooled By It!” and “Illegal Rally Was To Serve Opposition’s Agenda.” This year Bernama was quiet during the day of the Bersih 3.0 rally. Their main headline during the rally was “Economic Strength Enables Government to Provide More Aid – by PM Najib.” Instead of highlighting the protest and giving coverage towards the Bersih 3.0, Bernama has conveniently ignored the event entirely for that day.
The Star went with “PM: Government allows gatherings if they are peaceful, at appropriate venues” after yesterday’s rally. Last year the Star headlines were “Street demonstrations not part of Malaysian culture, says PM.” after the 2011 Bersih 2.0 rally.
Many of these so-called news organizations are turning into public relations style reporting for the government rather than last year’s propaganda machines. Regardless what these newspapers report, the rally has achieved both national and international awareness towards Malaysia. The multicultural Malaysian citizens want to be represented within their democracy with their right to a fair and clean vote.