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Pacific Media Watch

A new media monitoring watchdog, Muslim Media Watch, published its first edition today featuring a cover story alleging that a Malaysian cult leader who was reportedly now in New Zealand could “create social unrest”.

Named as Suhaini bin Mohammad, he was allegedly posing as a Muslim religious leader and was said to be wanted by the authorities in Malaysia for “false teachings” that contradict Islam.

His cult ideology was identified by MMW as SiHulk, which was banned by the Johor State Religious Department (JAINJ) in 2021.

The front page of the inaugural August edition of Muslim Media Watch
The front page of the inaugural August edition of Muslim Media Watch. Image: Screenshot

In an editorial, the 16-page publlcation said a need for “such a news outlet” as MMW had been shown after the mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques on 15 March 2019 and the Royal Commission inquiry that followed.

Fifty one people killed in the twin attacks were all Muslims attending the Islamic Friday prayer — “they were targeted solely because they were Muslims”.

The editorial noted “the shooter was motivated largely by online material. His last words before carrying out the shootings were: ‘Remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie.’”

“It is therefore disappointing that, while acknowledging the role of the media in the shootings, none of the 44 recommendations in the government’s response to the [Royal Commission] relate to holding media to account for irresponsible reporting, or even mention media; the word does not appear in any recommendation,” writes editor Adam Brown.

Often not neutral
“Indeed, the word Muslim appears only once, in ‘Muslim Community Reference Group’.
It has long been acknowledged that media reporting of Muslims and Islam is often not neutral.”

The editorial cited an Australian example, a survey by OnePath Network Australia which tallied the number, percentage and tone of articles about Islam in Australian media in 2017, in particular newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp: The Daily Telegraph, The Australian, The Herald Sun, The Courier Mail and The Advertiser.

“Over the year, the report found that 2891 negative articles ran in those five newspapers, where Islam and Muslims were mentioned alongside words like violence, extremism, terrorism and radical. This equates to over eight articles per day for the whole year; 152 of those articles ran on the front page,” said the MMW editorial.

“The percentage of their opinion pieces that were Islamophobic ranged from 19 percent
to 64 percent.

“The average was 31 percent, nearly a third, with one writer reaching almost two thirds. Also, as OnePath comment, ‘Even though they are stated to be “opinion” pieces, they are often written as fact.’”

Editor Brown said the situation in New Zealand had not improved since the shootings.

“Biased and unfair reporting on Muslim matters continues, and retractions are not always forthcoming,” he wrote.

Examples highlighted
The editorial said that the purpose of MMW was to highlight examples of media reporting — in New Zealand and overseas — that contained information about Islam that was not
accurate, or that was not neutrally reported.

It would also model ethical journalism and responsible reporting following Islamic practices and tradition.

MMW offered to conduct training sessions and to act as a resource for other media outlets.

On other pages, MMW reported about misrepresentation of Islam “being nothing new”, a challenge over a Listener article misrepresentation about girls’ education in Afghanistan, an emerging global culture of mass Iftar events, an offensive reference in a Ministry of Education textbook, and the ministry “acknowledges bias in teacher recruiting”, an article headlined “when are religious extremists not religious extremists”, and other issues.

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