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How Malaysian newspapers are fueling LGBTI hatred

protesters in colourful hijabs protesting on the street

For the second time this month, LGBTI rights advocates in Malaysia have condemned the media for its coverage of LGBTI issues.

At least three local newspapers have been criticized for their coverage of a transgender woman who appeared in court this week.

The Malay Mail misgendered the woman throughout. The English-language paper referred to the trans woman as a ‘male tourist’.

Malay-language daily Astroawani, meanwhile, used the degrading term ‘bapuk’ to describe the woman.

Transgender activist Nisha Ayub told Gay Star News the word ‘bapuk’ is very offensive to the community.

She likened it to words like faggot and tranny in English.

’The media could be our downfall,’ she told Gay Star News.

LGBTI photos removed from expo

Portraits of LGBTI activists which were removed from an exhibition in Malaysia | Photo: Facebook

‘Pollute’ and ‘infect’

Malaysia, where gay sex is illegal, is becoming less and less tolerant of its LGBTI population.

The country has seen a crackdown on LGBTI individuals spurred by the religious fundamentalism of politicians.

Organizers of a Women’s March earlier this month are being prosecuted after they included demands for LGBT rights.

‘LGBT practices will never be accepted in this country’, a government official also said.

It comes after the country’s leader last year said LGBT rights were a Western concept and not for Malaysia.

The Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia, meanwhile, criticized coverage of the march by local press.

They called out two dailies for using words such as ‘pollute’ and ’infect’ in headlines about the LGBTI population.

‘Show some empathy’

Ayub told Gay Star News the media is not helping decrease hatred against the LGBTI community.

She said they often use degrading terms simply to sell papers.

‘They are actually creating more stigma’ Ayub explained. ‘The media nowadays has the power to influence everyone’ she explained.

Ayub said the media plays an important role in educating people.

But, she admitted, ’the portrayal of the community has always been to the negative side’.

‘As a journalist, you should respect other people’ she urged. ’Show some empathy and be ethical’.

LGBT activist Pang Khee Teik, meanwhile, called out the Malay Mail on Facebook.

He said newspaper articles should ‘reflect [their] own journalistic integrity’.

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Author: Rik Glauert