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Framing The Fight Against Terror: Order Versus Liberty in the Mainstream and Alternative Media
Unformatted Document Text:  ICA-6-10348 6 arrests meant that a good deal of newspaper space was taken up by the need to keep readers abreast of the latest figures: how many had been arrested so far, their age range, nationalities and professions, how many were alleged to have received military training abroad, and so on. The significance of frames lies as much in what they leave out, as in what they include. Thus, framing the KMM story as an on-going, forward-looking police operation left little room for discussion of the legitimacy of the actions taken thus far. In particular, NST reported all police allegations as if they were established facts, and treated the denial to the detainees of a trial in open court as a virtual non-issue. Similarly, by framing the government’s actions as protecting the nation’s security and reputation, other possible political motives were sidestepped. These points were not entirely absent from NST’s coverage. In January, the paper ran three short stories quoting opposition leaders criticizing the use of the ISA, alleging that the arrests were an attempt to provoke fear, and asking for assurances that the anti- terrorism campaign would not be used to stifle dissent. Another short story reported an appeal by an NGO to the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) to intervene. Suhakam did eventually get involved, organizing a public inquiry in June into conditions at the detention camp, which received some coverage in NST. In May and June, NST also ran three reports on an unsuccessful habeas corpus application filed by one of the KMM detainees. One of the reports was headlined, “Counsel: No plausible reason for client’s detention under ISA.” Therefore, it appears that when the sources involved are elite individuals and institutions – opposition leaders, the human rights commission, and the courts – NST was prepared to provide some coverage. This is in keeping with findings in the literature that elite divisions improve the chances of sympathetic coverage of deviant views. Even so, the two critical themes highlighted by the opposition – questioning the use of detention without trial, and questioning the government’s motives – were marginal to NST’s overall coverage. Neither point was broached in the five page one stories or in the two editorials on KMM in the period studied. The coverage of the Suhakam inquiry was selective, to put it mildly. One report was headlined, “We underwent Afghan military training, KMM

Authors: George, Cherian.
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ICA-6-10348
6
arrests meant that a good deal of newspaper space was taken up by the need to keep
readers abreast of the latest figures: how many had been arrested so far, their age range,
nationalities and professions, how many were alleged to have received military training
abroad, and so on.
The significance of frames lies as much in what they leave out, as in what they
include. Thus, framing the KMM story as an on-going, forward-looking police operation
left little room for discussion of the legitimacy of the actions taken thus far. In particular,
NST reported all police allegations as if they were established facts, and treated the denial
to the detainees of a trial in open court as a virtual non-issue. Similarly, by framing the
government’s actions as protecting the nation’s security and reputation, other possible
political motives were sidestepped.
These points were not entirely absent from NST’s coverage. In January, the paper
ran three short stories quoting opposition leaders criticizing the use of the ISA, alleging
that the arrests were an attempt to provoke fear, and asking for assurances that the anti-
terrorism campaign would not be used to stifle dissent. Another short story reported an
appeal by an NGO to the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) to intervene.
Suhakam did eventually get involved, organizing a public inquiry in June into conditions
at the detention camp, which received some coverage in NST. In May and June, NST also
ran three reports on an unsuccessful habeas corpus application filed by one of the KMM
detainees. One of the reports was headlined, “Counsel: No plausible reason for client’s
detention under ISA.”
Therefore, it appears that when the sources involved are elite individuals and
institutions – opposition leaders, the human rights commission, and the courts – NST was
prepared to provide some coverage. This is in keeping with findings in the literature that
elite divisions improve the chances of sympathetic coverage of deviant views. Even so,
the two critical themes highlighted by the opposition – questioning the use of detention
without trial, and questioning the government’s motives – were marginal to NST’s overall
coverage. Neither point was broached in the five page one stories or in the two editorials
on KMM in the period studied. The coverage of the Suhakam inquiry was selective, to
put it mildly. One report was headlined, “We underwent Afghan military training, KMM


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