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Monday August 26, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday August 26, 2013 MYT 7:11:43 AM
by baradan kuppusamy
Crime stories are a basic staple in all the Tamil dailies today.
It is quite a soap opera among the Tamil newspapers in Malaysia with shifting alliances.
FOR a small community of 1.7 million people, Malaysian Indians have six Tamil dailies, a dozen Tamil weeklies and several dedicated Tamil television channels from South India via Astro and not to mention local radio stations like THR Raaga.
It seems they are spoilt for choice.
“We have so many dailies to choose from,” said lawyer P. Periasamy who reads Thina Kural, a Tamil daily that came into the picture about a year ago to take advantage of the interest shown by the Indian community in the run-up to the May 5 elections.
“But essentially they all cover the same news but with slight variations to give emphasis to the man who is funding them,” he said.
An editor of a Tamil daily agreed.
“We have a fixed format – daily political news, crime news followed by news from Tamil Nadu and court stories with a Tamil angle,” he said.
“But crime news is the basic staple now which we cannot do without.”
Crime news is what practitioners of Tamil journalism today call vettu kuttu (slash and punch) stories and all the six Tamil newspapers gravitate towards it.
With nearly 80% of gang members consisting of Indians, crime is a big story among the Tamil newspapers and it gets daily coverage, often making the headlines.
Shootings, parang attacks, robberies and court cases involving Indians are frequently highlighted in all six Tamil dailies, besides the grieving families of victims.
The recent police shooting of five members of Gang 04 in Penang, plus the anger among gang members against police, were reported in graphic details and given front-page treatment for days.
But in reality the plethora of newspapers indicate the community has fractured and splintered into numerous political parties, special interest groups, NGOs, business groups and even shady characters and underworld figures.
Gone were the days when former MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu held an iron grip on the community and ruled the roost with his Tamil Nesan newspaper, the big daddy of Tamil journalism, but now relegated to number three or four.
To oppose his one-man show, Makkal Osai came into being, financially supported by former deputy MIC president Datuk S. Subramaniam and about 30 loyalists.
The two dailies held court with a third – Malaysia Nanban – playing a mediating role between the two and giving voice to all news.
While Makkal Osai and Tamil Nesan fought a long proxy battle as their two leaders tussled for power for much of the 1980s and 1990s, Malaysia Nanban slowly grew and found a niche among the loyal followers of the MIC dailies.
It also gave voice to Tamil Nadu Muslims who preferred Malaysia Nanban over the two feuding dailies – Makkal Osai and Tamil Nesan – as it covers their community news.
The 2008 general election changed things and saw an increase of three newspapers to six and growing.
It gave rise to many NGOs, both supporting Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, and likewise many moneyed-individuals on both sides with cash to burn in the euphoria of an altered political landscape.
Breakaway-editors of Makkal Osai started Nam Naadu daily which is said to be funded by Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Tan Sri Kenneth Eswaran.
Thina Kural is said to be funded by former MIC strategist Datuk R. Ramanan.
Lately the Tamil Malar daily, in a tabloid format, made an appearance under veteran Tamil journalists and editor M. Periasamy who was previously with Makkal Osai but fought with Subramaniam’s group.
Going by sales at the newsstands, Malaysia Nanban still holds the lead in terms of circulation figures, followed by Makkal Osai and the Tamil Nesan in third place.
But practitioners are confident that Periasamy’s Tamil Malar would put up a strong fight for the lead role.
A group of journalists from Makkal Osai and Thina Kural is planning to jump ship and join Tamil Malar.
The Tamil dailies, their financiers and their readers also change according to the shifting of alliance among editors.
While the family of Samy Vellu is always associated with Tamil Nesan and Subramaniam with Makkal Osai, the other Tamil dailies have shifting alliances and loyalties.
Makkal Osai has found a new ally in Datuk G. Palanivel who is given prominence in the paper while Eswaran and Ramanan get coverage for the programmes they fund.
Former MIC loyalists of Subra-maniam now find themselves without a party of their own and they tend to support individual leaders in Pakatan, while giving voice to issues in the Indian community as a general rule.
Unlike the cut-throat world of Tamil dailies, the TV and radio stations are purely for entertainment purposes and dissemination of official news.
Some channels on Astro run one movie after another or one dance scene after another.
It is another matter for the six Tamil dailies; while they give coverage to south Indian politics, dance and culture, their mainstay is the cut and thrust of local Tamil politics and the daily grind of crime stories.
But for all the practitioners, however, their first love is the Tamil language which they vow is the most beautiful in the world.
As they say, they are in it for the love of the language.
Everything else is secondary.
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