Sunday, October 22, 2006

Straits Times and Today's portrayal of the haze

Today I will blog about how I felt after reading the Straits Times' article and the Today's article on the haze that is affecting Southeast Asia. My focus is partly but NOT entirely on the haze situation but the impressions that I got after reading the 2 newspapers' report on the same issue.

SUNDAY TIMES - The Straits Times

In the Sunday Times, the "top of the news" article is entitled: "Jakarta drags its feet again on haze pact". The gist of the article is that Indonesia is "unlikely to ratify an ASEAN anti-haze agreement any time soon even though President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said that it would."

In the article, it stated that all factions in the Indonesian committee (elected to lead the debate on the ratification), including the President's own Democrat Party, had agreed that there should be certain steps taken by the government BEFORE the ratification process will resume.

An example of "certain steps" mentioned were the cross-border enviromental issues involving Indonesia's Asean neighbors. These include:
a) Malaysia's alleged role as the biggest buyer of illegally-logged timber from Indonesia
b) Illegal fishing in Indonesian waters by Thai fisherman
c) Ongoing talks between Singapore and Indonesia over an extradition treaty.

A member of the commission, Mr. Alvin Lie, also spoke about a "balance of benefits" and he added that there were already several existing laws in place that can deal with the haze problem and that Indonesia "did not need to be afraid of pressures from other countries".

*As I am writing this section of the blog, imagine me having to take several minutes away per paragraph trying to prevent my blood pressure from bursting through the ceiling. Damn this stupid Indonesian committee.....damns this stupid Alvin Lie, his mixed up priorities and his inability to see that these existing laws are not doing any good for anyone including the people in his countries. In fact, I felt that Indonesia was rather under-handed to make use of this situation to force matters in other areas and such a joke that they could refute their President’s pledge to another nation*


BUT then I also surfed online and read the TODAY newspaper and they also had another article on the haze entitled "Lifting the haze". (Immediately you can see that this is a less negative headline as compared to the Straits Times)

This article, I felt, was more balanced. It reinforced the Straits Times' report that the haze problem would NOT go away in the next few years. And it also gave a more balanced view on the size of the problem. In the article, it explained that fires from the peat land amount to 20 percent of the fires but are responsible for more than 60 percent of the haze. (In which, 60 percent is a conservative number). This makes the problem seem easier and more manageable to tackle.

In addition, the TODAY newspaper also added that the Ambassador from Indonesia called for the ASEAN member states to start pledging money to the proposed regional fund provided for in the ASEAN pact to combat the haze. Ambassador Wiryono explained that fulfilling this ambition of the pact will assure Indonesia that it won't be combating the haze on its own AND also would not make Indonesia feel like they are being singled out for the punishment for the haze. (I accept that there are many reasons that contributed to the haze even the existence of external factors in which Indonesia is not to be entirely blamed. However, I do think that they take up a large percentage of the blame due to their lax laws to combat this problem). This in turn encourages the Indonesian government to clamp down on the businesses responsible for the fire.

After I read the article, I felt more appeased. Certainly the Today's article made me understand that Indonesia did not feel that they were totally responsible for the haze, it also explained the situation in Indonesia where the fact of the matter is that the people feels like they are being blamed entirely for the whole situation. This makes them defensive which honestly, does not do one bit of good to solve this problem we have at hand.


And then I thought to myself, if a volunteer had came up to me in Orchard Road and asked me to donate to a fund set up for the haze prevention cause, the possibility of me donating would be almost ZERO if I had read the Straits Times article. However, if I had read the Today's article, I would definitely have donated.
(Although, I would still be thinking if the money would be put to good use and not into the pockets of corrupted officers in Indonesia since it is obvious that some people in the Indonesian committee are just so incapable)

Therefore, I reflected on the importance of the mass media to provide an unbalanced view of the news that they report on the world today. It is very important to reflect a balanced view at all times. Certainly, there are dimwits that make stupid decisions and comments such as (A.L) but there are also good mixes of balanced people out there who can explain the situation such as the Ambassador (W.S). Not being careful and portrayal of any imbalanced views would just incite bad feelings which is really not necessary if the ultimate aim is to avoid taking sides and focus on the problems at hand, which is: To solve this haze problem!

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