Usha Devi Rajaratnam
Malaysia recently concluded its 12th General Election in March 2008. The ruling coalition, National Front (Barisan Nasional) has been in power for the past 50 years, since independence in 1957. However this election proved to be a ‘political tsunami’ as the party lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament as well as lost its control in five out of the thirteen states in the country to the Opposition, People’s Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat), something unprecedented in the history of political development in Malaysia. This study compares the role of the mainstream media against the online media. Online media though in existence in Malaysia since the early 1990s came to light in 1998 after the arrest and prosecution of former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim for corruption and sexual misconduct charges. Currently, Anwar Ibrahim is the Adviser to the People’s Alliance. Mainstream media such as The Star newspaper will be compared alongside online media, Malaysiakini, the country’s first commercial online newspaper through a content analysis. A comparative study of the news articles of both the media throughout the campaign period (24 February – 7 March 2008) will be studied. Utilising the theoretical framework of Agenda Setting, The Star and Malaysiakini will be tested to see the extent of the dominant role played by the Agenda Setting theory in deciding the articles that are published.
Keywords: Agenda Setting, General Election, online media, traditional media