Trial by the Media, Guilty by Perception ?
We live in a time of a proliferation of information.
Information, whether verified or not is easily shared on a multitude of social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Whats App, Telegram, all with a click of a finger.
Facts, pseudo facts and downright lies are all jumbled up and for the less astute, it is not easy to differentiate what is real and what is fake.
In fact, for those who consider themselves educated and politically astute are not necessarily immune to behind the scenes manipulations which can easily hijack the narrative by feeding into the unchecked prejudices of the reader.
An award-winning documentary, “The Great Hack” on Netflix comes to mind.
The film, based on real life events explore how a data company, Cambridge Analytica came to symbolize the dark side of social media in the wake of the 2016 US presidential election which saw Trump, trumping over Clinton, building on the narrative of “Clinton, the liar.”
I have been examining the chronology of events that culminated in the present crisis besetting the MACC Chief Commissioner, whereby civil society and political parties across the divide coalesce, all calling for the resignation of Azam Baki with greater and greater vigour.
Even without due legal process and proof, you can almost hear them chanting, “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”
From what I see, it is a combination of seriously delayed responses, unconvincing explanations, plus the ineptness of the chairman of the MACC advisory monitoring body, in a tragic comedy of errors, led to the perception that the Chief Commissioner is guilty even before any real evidence is shown.
A PR nightmare, but the fact remains: It is not a crime to delay explanation.
It is not a crime for a civil servant to own shares.
It is not a crime for his family members to be engaged in business and buying shares all over the place.
The case in question, happened in 2015, 2016, and Azam Baki as the facts stand, has returned all the shares to his brother, and in the process made a loss.
There is no evidence of insider trading that enabled Azam Baki or his brother to make a handsome profit from the purchase in those two years.
He had also declared his shares to his Department Chief then, as he explained.
As to the question of the legality of his brother using his share trading account, the Securities Commission is investigating it now.
At present, as the facts stands, what Azam Baki has committed, is the grave crime of being tried and found guilty by the (social) media and by public perception.
Hence, the questions, an astute observer should ask are: Why now, when the issue of Azam Baki’s share occurred some six years ago?
Who is really behind the ubiquitous Twitterings, presenting itself as a whistleblower, that is clearly the job of well-paid cybertroopers to bring down certain individuals in the government?
The Tweets have even managed to get the attention of an “investigative journalist” who merely “retweeted” in a more structured, formal essay, and having gained publication in an online media outfit is now facing a RM10 mil defamation suit.
Could the timing be well set to explode just months before the 15th General Elections that we know will be intensely fought by major political parties, with outcomes likely to go any which way?
This year, is also the year when grand high profile corruption cases that garnered worldwide attention will likely see court verdicts.
We also know that the MACC under Azam Baki has been investigating the corruption of politicians across the political divide, both from the opposition and the ruling party.
This civil servant made no political friends.
Enemies, plenty. 2022 is a most critical year for the shifting balance of power and what better way to create distrust of one of the most important government institutions?
Who gains from the removal of Azam Baki?
Who gains from the creation of a trust deficit in the present government?
You can see the two forces coalescing into a single unified systematic attack to remove the Chief Commissioner and to cast doubts and suspicion of the anti-corruption institution.
Civil society, self-styled journalists and activists have their roles to play.
They have a right to question the lack of transparency, and accountability of government officers and agencies, but they need to be careful that they are not playing into the hands of those who have their own agendas, unless they also have agendas of their own.