Muhyiddin Yassin’s relationship with the broader Malaysian and foreign press corps was mute and moot.
His press advisers kept most journalists at arm’s length and relied on embedded “Muhyiddin megaphones” in the local media during his rare press conferences.
The advisers seemingly dictated terms to the government-controlled media while facing a relentless pressure to keep the free media under control.
Friendly media came across as Muhyiddin cheerleaders, not keen to put the former prime minister under scrutiny.
So, you wonder why Muhyiddin objected to his final press conference yesterday at Putrajaya being broadcast live with only friendly editors from local media present.
Giving a disbelieving shake of his head, he was heard asking in a video clip why it should be aired live when he had just delivered his “keynote” address.
Muhyiddin, who had earlier made a televised announcement of his resignation, said he was okay for it to be recorded. The broadcast stopped.
Will the public ever get to view the recording?
Muhyiddin, looking distracted, hopelessly misjudged the mood of the nation.
Perhaps, he was terrified viewers would dissect every utterance for gaffes.
Many wanted to hear what he would tell the “special press conference” since some of his remarks needed elaboration.
The abrupt cancellation got tongues wagging about Muhyiddin’s reluctance to tell-all and his perceived disdain for the press corps.
The thing is his office made sure the right questions would be asked, and he wouldn’t be uncomfortable with the editors posing uneasy questions.
He would have been given the assurance that the journalists present would not interrupt him or ask a follow-up question.
This, after all, was the trait of those planted as “bullhorns” of prime ministers even in the past.
A tell-all may have given Muhyiddin the opportunity to finally open part of his mind to Malaysians so that people may know his point of view a little better.
Muhyiddin should have provided clarity on the King’s rare public rebuke of the government’s move to revoke emergency laws without the palace’s approval, as required by the constitution.
He should have acknowledged mistakes in the government’s mishandling of the pandemic and the economy instead of simply wishing the nation well as he did when announcing his resignation.
Malaysians want to know about the supposed manoeuvring by DAP in relation to his olive branch offer.
Did the opposition party with 42 MPs ditch him after purportedly agreeing to back him when he puts himself through a vote of confidence when Parliament reconvenes next month?
Is DAP strongman Lim Guan Eng among those he had implicated in the so-called court cluster involving political leaders facing charges in court?
Does he dislike the free media? Was it a hostile press that made him wall himself up?
Why was he hesitant to have press conferences with all the media organisations as is a practice in a democracy?
Has he not felt the need to hold himself and his government accountable to a free press?
For many years in Malaysia, there has been a fundamental disconnect between what leaders and the press want from briefing sessions.
Journalists have the right to routinely question leaders. No minister is above institutional scrutiny whether from the media or citizens.
It’s time for them to turn down the fear dial.
By : Frankie D’Cruz – FMT