The Media and Political Change in Southeast Asia
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The Media and Political Change in Southeast Asia

Karaoke Culture and the Evolution of Personality Politics

Jonathan Woodier

Jonathan Woodier’s latest work considers what impact the media has upon the democratization process in Southeast Asia. Has the media had a liberalizing effect or become subject to elite control in Southeast Asia and, if so, why? What role does the global media play in this process, particularly given its conglomerization and commoditization? By examining the communications media and its relationship to political change in Southeast Asia, this fascinating study will endeavour to provide both a regional comparative analysis and a more balanced interpretation of the mass communication media in the wake of September 11, 2001. The book also investigates the durability of authoritarian regimes and the enduring capacity of the media-controlled state alongside the growing sophistication of political communications – particularly the use of PR consultants.
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Chapter 4: Please do not Adjust Your Set: International Information Flows, the Media and Security in Malaysia

Jonathan Woodier


4. Please do not adjust your set: international information flows, the media and security in Malaysia INTRODUCTION At the beginning of September, 2005, at a public lecture organized by Suhakam, the Malaysian Human Rights Commission, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, was criticizing the United States and Britain for invading Iraq, describing their military action as ‘acts of terror’. In protest, the diplomats and officers of the two countries on the receiving end of Mahathir’s diatribe left the ballroom of the Le Meridien Hotel in Budapest, where the speech took place. Mahathir’s passing comment: ‘So can we accept that these big powers alone have a right to determine when to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries to protect human rights?’ The people of Malaysia, he said, ‘seemed to be quite happy’, adding his country did not need foreign powers to ensure there was no abuse of human rights (Megan 2005). Both sides of this argument occupied familiar territory: Dr Mahathir had long been a critic of the Western governments; his targets familiar with their role as Mahathir’s neo-colonial whipping boys. It was a game Mahathir played well as Prime Minister of Malaysia as he worked to modernize his country as the head of a multi-ethnic alliance, leading a one party developmental state along what he saw as a secular Islamic model, yet faced by growing fundamentalist and democratization pressures. Mahathir was always on message. The problem was the mass communication media that carried...

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