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Government and Press in Malaysia

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In Malaysia, the government-controlled mainstream newspapers present a version of reality in which the ruling coalition, the Barisan Nasional, stands in diametric contrast to its opposition. In press accounts, the Barisan is moderate while the opposition is extremist; the Barisan can guarantee harmony between ethnic groups while an opposition government would unleash the forces of ethnic conflict, and so on. Conveyed along with this study in contrasts is a more subtle, but no less politically useful, vision of the Malaysian social order as a productive arrangement between two inalienable categories of people: those who rule, and those who must be ruled. The press construction of reality thus mediates between the ideal of democracy, which Malaysia officially upholds, and the elitism that is the hallmark of a class society.


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Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455


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