Intrigue and Espionage: The Tense Relationship between Spy Agencies and Journalists


Back in 1978, I was sitting at the bar of the Commodore Hotel in Beirut, the storied safe haven for journalists and diplomats during the Lebanese civil war,  when a low-level Palestinian official named Anis sidled up to me and asked if I was “from Israel.”

At the time, I was the Middle East correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, based in Jerusalem.  

“I’m not ‘from’ Israel,” I told Anis. “I’m an American reporter based there, but I cover the entire Middle East.”

Anis lifted his chin and clucked his tongue in the Levantine gesture of disbelief.

“That’s what you say,” he replied. “I think you are Mossad, pretending to be a journalist.” A cold chill washed over me. In war-battered, trigger-happy Beirut, even a suspicion, not to mention an accusation, of being an Israeli spy could get me killed. So I immediately went to the front desk and called Mahmoud Labadi, the spokesman for Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. I had a decent working relationship with Labadi, who knew I was based in Jerusalem but didn’t confuse that with being an Israeli. I told him that Anis had just labeled me a Mossad spy and urged him to get Anis on the line right away and vouch for me. 

“If you don’t, this could end very badly,” I said.

Labadi agreed. A few minutes later, the hotel operator summoned Anis to a phone call at the front desk. I could hear Labadi shouting at him through the phone. A chastened Anis hung up the receiver and turned to me. 

Ana asif,” he said in Arabic, touching his heart. “I apologize.” But he quickly added plaintively: “How can you  know who is Mossad, who is CIA, and who is a real journalist?”

Good question. The truth is, thanks to the world’s spy agencies, one can’t. And the result can be bone-chilling moments like my run-in with Anis, or far worse. Because when spy agencies use journalism as a cover for their clandestine officers, it casts a cloud of suspicion on all journalists, no matter who their employer is or where they’re from.  

I’m recounting this story because of a recent piece in The New York Times about a former Mossad agent named Sylvia Rafael, who carried out spy missions across the Arab world in the 1960s and 1970s while posing as a news photographer for a French photo agency.

Rafael used a reporting assignment in Lebanon to mail letter bombs to Beirut-based Palestinian leaders. In Jordan, PLO officials allowed her to photograph a secret military training camp, whose location Rafael passed on to her Israeli handlers. As a spy in journalist’s clothing , Rafael also gathered intelligence for the Mossad on social conditions in Yemen, Djibouti and Egypt. Her journalist cover even enabled her to shoot close-up portraits of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, his successor Anwar Sadat, and Algerian leader Houari Boumediene.

Although she was unmasked in a Mossad-authorized biography nine years ago, Israel’s spymasters are so proud of her feats that they’ve just released her long classified photos for a show in Tel Aviv.

The Times story angered me and several colleagues because it focused on Rafael’s apparent talent as a photographer but never mentioned the suspicion and danger that real foreign correspondents face overseas as a result of intelligence agencies’ using journalism as a cover identity for their clandestine operatives.

“The story says, without comment, that Mossad concealed its agent’s identity as a press photographer—something that, then or now,  potentially endangers all other press photographers,”  former Time magazine foreign correspondent Adam Zagorin commented in an email. “Yet the NYT never mentions that as an issue, or looks at whether this Mossad policy remains in force, raising the possibility that other photographers and even reporters have been, or still are, Mossad plants or agents. This is a significant issue for the press in general, which the NYT has previously recognised and addressed. But not this time.”

The Price of Suspicion

Over the past decade, numerous journalists around the world have been arrested and imprisoned on charges of espionage. As of Dec. 1 last year, a total of 363 journalists were imprisoned around the world, according data compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists, but the organization does not break down how many of those have been charged with espionage.

Last March, Polish authorities arrested and imprisoned Spanish freelance reporter Pablo Gonzales near the border with Ukraine, accusing him of spying for Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.  

Since then, Polish officials have not publicly disclosed any evidence to support their accusation. Meanwhile, Gonzales, who denies the charge, has remained in prison, mostly in solitary confinement. He has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, seeking release alleging the terms of his imprisonment violate his constitutional rights. In letters from prison, Gonzalez has said Polish security agents advised him to “eat flies or insects” if he wanted to maintain his protein levels.

It’s no surprise that the Russia-Ukraine conflict would put journalists in jeopardy. On March 10, Moscow’s FSB security service in Russian-occupied Crimea arrested Vladislav Yesypenko, a journalist for the U.S.-government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Eight days later, according to Reporters Without Borders, Yesypenko, “visibly pale” and speaking with “difficulty,” confessed on a local Russian television station to spying for Ukraine’s Security Services. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which promotes press freedom, said Yesypenko’s confession was “almost certainly obtained under duress.”

“Forcing an imprisoned journalist to declare himself guilty and broadcasting his ‘confession’ in a serious violation of journalistic ethics,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk, who called for his immediate release. “Such practices are also prohibited by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Russia and Ukraine.”

Last October, Iranian intelligence officials arrested and imprisoned journalists Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, labeling them CIA agents after they broke the news of the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for not wearing her hijab head scarf properly. The news sparked nationwide protests that have rocked the country’s clerical leadership.

“More than 40 [Iranian] journalists have been detained since the protests erupted on streets across the country,” many accused of acting as American or Israeli agents, according to The Guardian newspaper.

In July 2014, Iranian officials arrested Washington Post foreign correspondent Jason Rezaian in Tehran on charges of espionage and “collaborating with hostile governments.” Held at Iran’s infamous Evin Prison, he was convicted after a closed-door trial in October 2015 and sentenced a month later to a term of undisclosed duration. After 544 days behind bars, he was released along with three other Americans in exchange for seven Iranian prisoners being held in the United States plus Washington’s release of $1.7 billion in frozen Iranian funds. 

Asked if the Mossad continues to use journalism as a cover for its operatives, a former high-ranking Israeli official told me the spy agency doesn’t discuss its sources and methods. 

The Mossad is not alone in having used journalism as cover for intelligence collection.

Cold War Collusion

During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union employed journalists or used their respective news organizations as cover for their intelligence gathering. In 1976, a Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA abuses during the 1950s and 1960s found that 50 U.S. journalists had secret official relationships with the CIA during that period. 

The committee report didn’t mention any names, but a year later, legendary Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein published a lengthy exposé in Rolling Stone that said the Church committee had bowed to White House pressure and minimized the number of journalists working with the spy agency . 

Bernstein alleged that more than 400 American journalists had secretly performed assignments for the CIA over the preceding 25 years. Citing documents on file at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and interviews with CIA officials, Bernstein outed some of the biggest names in American journalism as willing assets who either carried out tasks for the CIA or enabled their editors and reports to do so. They included Newsweek columnist Stewart Alsop, New York Times Publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger and his columnist C.L. Sulzberger, Time magazine founder Henry Luce and CBS President William Paley, among many others.

“Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries,” Bernstein wrote. “Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad.” 

Bernstein explained why foreign correspondents proved so valuable to the agency’s clandestine operations.

“The peculiar nature of the job of the foreign correspondent is ideal for such work,” he wrote. “He is accorded unusual access by his host country, permitted to travel in areas often off‑limits to other Americans, spends much of his time cultivating sources in governments, academic institutions, the military establishment and the scientific communities. He has the opportunity to form long‑term personal relationships with sources and—perhaps more than any other category of American operative—is in a position to make correct judgments about the susceptibility and availability of foreign nationals for recruitment as spies.” 

Limited Impact of Revelations

The CIA’s secret deployment of its agents as spies did not go down well with Loch Johnson, who was staff director of the Senate select subcommittee headed by Idaho Sen. Frank Church that was created in 1976 to look into CIA abuses. 

“It’s outrageous,” said Johnson, a leading authority on intelligence issues and Regents Professor Emeritus of Public and International Affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. “In a democracy, one should not have spies pretending to be journalists,” Johnson told SpyTalk. “After all, one of the backbones of a democracy is a free press, and this practice corrupts that whole relationship.”

After the Church committee’s reports on the CIA, the agency adopted regulations that barred the use of American journalists or the names of U.S. news organizations as cover for the CIA’s clandestine officers, according to Johnson. The agency is still permitted to recruit foreign journalists.

Johnson said that the regulations included a waiver that had allowed two exceptions to the prohibition, one under CIA director Stansfield Turner (1977-1981) and the other during the agency’s directorship of John Deutsch (1995-1996). Deutch later said he reserved the right to make exceptions under “genuinely extraordinary” circumstances, according to The Washington Post. But he added that during his tenure, “I have not encountered any set of circumstances that would lead me to consider such a possibility.”

In both cases in which the waiver was used, however, Johnson told SpyTalk, Turner and Deutsch failed to inform the Senate and House intelligence committees, as required by the agency’s own regulations.

The CIA didn’t respond to SpyTalk queries asking if the 1976 prohibition remained in force, and whether there had been additional exceptions since 1996.

But Johnson added that the regulations apply only to accredited full-time American journalists, leaving the CIA free to employ or impersonate American stringers for U.S. news organizations and freelancers, as well as foreign reporters.

Today, I wonder if other American journalists are having close calls with hostile forces who accuse them of being spies, as I was back in Beirut decades ago. I hope not, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

My story, thankfully, had a happy ending.

The Beirut incident became something of a private joke between me and Anis, my erstwhile Palestinian accuser.  Whenever I returned to Lebanon and ran into him at the Commodore, Anis would greet me with a broad smile and say, “How’s my Mossad friend today?” And we’d have a laugh—but to me, it was no joking matter.

Source: SpyTalk

Is our society at risk of being outsmarted by technology?

“ChatGPT, the cutting-edge language model developed by OpenAI, has become a worldwide phenomenon. The technology, which uses advanced machine learning algorithms to generate human-like text, has taken the world by storm and has been adopted by individuals and businesses alike.”

If you think this is a human comment on the hottest new digital trend, think again. In fact, it was written by ChatGPT about itself, under the command: “Write a piece of news on ChatGPT being popular around the world …”

After its release two months ago, ChatGPT went viral, with more than 100 million users around the world. The new digital tool is the hot topic of the day. Some people are curious about it; others express concern that they will be replaced by artificial intelligence in the workplace sooner than they expected.

ChatGPT can write a news story faster than a person can.

What can ChatGPT do for us?

ChatGPT is a robot capable of conversing with users. It can also write essays, answer questions and generate codes. It can operate in at least 95 languages.

In 2020, California-based OpenAI released GPT-3, a type of artificial intelligence known as a “large language” model that creates text by trawling through billions of words of training data and learning how words and phrases relate to each other. ChatGPT was developed based on an advanced version of GPT-3, optimized to engage in dialogue with users.

“The biggest difference between ChatGPT and previous chatting robots was that it can think from your questions, and it can analyze your questions and the logic behind them to decide on its replies,” said Lu Lei, secretary general of Shanghai Information Service Association. “It feels like communication with real people rather than with AI.”

People have used ChatGPT to do homework and write work mail.

Yuan Wenyi, a marketing specialist, said that she tried to work with ChatGPT one morning, and her nervousness about it turned to joy when she found her efficiency improved dramatically.

“I received some material from colleagues and asked ChatGPT to write a summary about it,” she said. “That was accomplished in just seconds. Then I asked it to write an email to a client, and it did a better, much faster job than I could do.”

There are also recreational uses for the new tool.

Fang Tian, a mechanical designer, said her hobby is writing love stories, but her busy work schedule doesn’t leave her enough time to develop her ideas into practical text. So she turned to ChatGPT.

“I typed in an idea I had and asked it to write a short segment of story,” she said. “The result, to be honest, was not very satisfying. It was awfully clichéd.”

ChatGPT may be the fastest growing app of all time, according to a report issued by Swiss-based financial services and investment bank UBS.

Has ChatGPT become a tool of cheating?

Probably no one uses ChatGPT more than students do.

A survey of 1,000 U.S. students 18 years and older by online course provider found that 89 percent said they had used ChatGPT for homework. Some 48 percent confessed they had used it to complete at-home tests, and more than half said they used it to write essays.

In Russia, a college student named Alexander Zhadan provoked controversy by using ChatGPT to write his graduation thesis, but he was allowed to keep his diploma anyway.

The developers of ChatGPT weren’t aiming for artificial intelligence to become a tool for cheating, but professors fear its implications for traditional education. At the very least, it may kill assignments for homework essays.

Dan Gillmor, a journalism scholar at Arizona State University in U.S. told “The Guardian” newspaper that he fed ChatGPT a homework question that he often uses in student tests. The result: an answer worthy of a good grade.

While some universities in the US have banned ChatGPT in classes, others note that students have long been able to outsource essay writing to human third parties through applications such as Essay Mills.

“It doesn’t necessarily add much functionality that wasn’t already available to students who knew where to look,” Thomas Lancaster, a computer scientist and academic-integrity researcher at Imperial College London, told “Nature.”

Are certain professions threatened by ChatGPT?

While students pride themselves on having a new tool that makes their homework easier, workers in some industries are beginning to worry that they will be replaced by software in the near future.

Among the professions at risk are media, programming, education and legal services.

Thomas Wang, an online instructor who teaches the use of spreadsheet software Excel, said that ChatGPT would probably be a better teacher than he ever was.

“I asked it how to do data fractionation in Excel, and it gave me a step-by-step instruction – even with an example,” he said. “I feel that I’m not needed anymore.”

Zhai Zhiyong, a law professor with Beihang University, said that artificial intelligence like ChatGPT will be able to do a lot of work now undertaken by lawyers and judges, such as reading through voluminous cases for precedent references.

“That would free up time for legal workers but also present them a challenge,” Zhai said. “In the future, lawyers and judges will have to be more competent because their major job will be dealing with the harder cases that artificial intelligence cannot easily resolve.”

What future do we face as artificial intelligence becomes more intelligent?

Like it or not, ChatGPT and its successors are here to stay.

China technology giant Baidu has announced that it has developed a similar application called ERNIE Bot, which will be released next month. The bot might be implanted in its search engine

Shanghai Information Service’s Lu said that it’s up to developers and users to decide if it is safe to use such AI applications because there are no relevant laws or regulations.

“Ethical controls behind ChatGPT would avoid some of the questions,” he said. “This actually presents a new challenge to the entire human society, but I’m afraid that it’s a double-edged sword and we must think how to use it to make our society better rather than worse.”

As for the question will ChatGPT cause millions of people to lose their jobs, let’s ask the source.

Here is ChatGPT’s answer in Chinese, translated into English:

“As an AI model, I don’t have self-awareness or emotions. My mission is to help people and to provide valuable information and solutions to improve productivity. The development of technology will always kill some jobs, but at the same time, new jobs will be created. People could be more competent in a new job market through education and training. Generally speaking, AI will improve productivity and life quality, but we need to deal with possible challenges with an active and responsible attitude.”

Source: SHINE 

India: Journalists in Post-Journalism

The military-style “search and seize” raid conducted on October 31, 2022 by the Crime Branch of the Delhi police at the offices of The Wire and the homes of its three founding editors, Siddharth Varadarajan, M.K.Venu, and Sidharth Bhatia, deputy editor Jahnavi Sen, and product-and-business head Mithun Kidambi marks a new low for media freedom in India.

The police seized various devices and the hard disks of two computers used by the accounts staff under cover of investigating a criminal case. This case is based on a complaint made by Amit Malviya, a BJP leader who heads the ruling party’s national Information Technology department, that the three Meta stories published earlier in October by The Wire were a conspiracy to harm his reputation through forgery. The Wire placed on record its demand for the hash value—a unique numerical value used to ensure the integrity of a device and its data—of the mobile phones, iPads, computers, and hard disks seized and for cloned copies of the devices and hard disks seized to be kept at a neutral place. But this reasonable and lawful demand was simply ignored.

The First Information Report (FIR) registered by the police against the journalists covers charges under the Indian Penal Code of “cheating and dishonesty” (Section 420) , “forgery for purpose of cheating” (468), “forgery for the purpose of harming reputation” (469), “using as genuine a forged document or electronic record” (471), “punishment for defamation” (500), all read along with provisions covering “punishment for criminal conspiracy”(120B) and “acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention” (34).

This is a formidable array of charges. Anyone familiar with the basic facts relating to how the Meta stories came to be published in The Wire and the role of Devesh Kumar, the technology consultant hired by the publication monthly, can understand that the criminal case registered is both unjust and over-the-top. Mens rea, “the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused”, needs to be established and it is clear as daylight that everyone named as accused in the FIR lacked mens rea.

Strangely, Devesh Kumar, who has played the starring role in this affair, is not named in the FIR, although it has been reported that his digital devices have been seized and he has been interrogated by the police, raising suspicions about what the investigation is up to with regard to him. As for the charge of criminal defamation, an editorial in The Hindu calls attention to settled law: “the police should not really be investigating the defamation angle, as Supreme Court judgments are clear that prosecution for defamation should only be at the instance of the aggrieved person, and there can be no police FIR.”

From this, it appears that the targeting of The Wire through criminal prosecution at political behest is, first, to push it into a difficult situation where, as the saying goes, “the process is the punishment”; and, secondly, to make an example of it before the rest of the news media.

A clear & distinctive voice 

Now let me come to the journalistic role and responsibility of The Wire and its editors in this sorry affair. Let us first recognise that in the seven years of its existence as an independent and not-for-profit digital news media venture, The Wire has operated with limited financial and reporting resources but done sterling work that few other media organisations do in India. It has handled sensitive information, offered progressive comment fearlessly, and specialised in complex investigations, its Pegasus-India exposé as a partner in an international journalistic collaboration being an outstanding example. In a short period, this digital news venture has emerged on the Indian media scene as a player with a clear and distinctive voice, a player who counts journalistically and politically, and is followed by a growing number of serious readers, listeners, and viewers. No wonder that the far-Right Hindutva regime and its supporters regard The Wire as an adversary to be silenced or put out of action.

Unfortunately, while working on and publishing stories relating to Meta, India, and the BJP, The Wire’s editorial systems failed egregiously. Fed false information and fabricated digital proof by Devesh Kumar, against whom The Wire has lodged a police complaint, it reported that Meta’s “XCheck” programme had granted extraordinary privileges to Malviya, including immunity against review of his posts by content moderators and the right to report any post and have it taken down, no questions asked. When independent experts questioned this, The Wire, after some doubling down on what had been published by relying further on Devesh Kumar’s fabrications, conducted an internal enquiry that detected the fraud, retracted the stories, and editorially apologised to readers. The Wire’s editorial promised to learn from this and put in place robust editorial processes for checking and cross-checking documents and all source-based information, and in future have all technical evidence verified by independent experts before publication.

The criticism of The Wire’s journalism in the Meta-India stories, and in a couple of investigative articles published earlier, notably a hard-to-believe story by Ayushman Kaul and the same untrustworthy Devesh Kumar about a mysterious super-app known as “Tek Fog” developed by the BJP, is legitimate and necessary. The “Tek Fog” story has now been taken out of public view, pending internal review, and one hopes the publication will soon come out with an authoritative statement on what went wrong in that case. The criticism that the Meta stories, and possibly a few others, published by The Wire, are examples of “confirmation bias”, which is defined as “the tendency to interpret and accept new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories”, is also legitimate. In a mostly sympathetic article titled “A prominent Indian independent news site destroys its own credibility”, The Economist made good-natured fun of The Wire’s Meta-Malviya story as an example of the well-known tendency of “wanting to believe”—but also pointed to the lesson that “misinformation is generated by all sides”, that “it is often done in good faith”, and that “scepticism is more important than ever.”

With confirmation bias and “wanting to believe”, The Wire is hardly alone, and its recent discomfiture needs to be viewed in proper context. Is there any major news media organisation in India or abroad that can honestly say it has not blundered in sourcing sensitive stories or has not purveyed misinformation and false propaganda or has never been taken for a ride by bad actors? The answer is obvious. A shocking example, with calamitous impact, from 2002-2003: The New York Times, Judith Miller, WMD, and the Iraq War (look up the literature on the subject).       

When a media organisation publishes a story or a series of stories based on information that turns out to be egregiously false, it is unquestionably a serious matter. But the remedy must be found within the media organisation and within the profession. Precisely formulated and actionable codes of conduct and institutional mechanisms for self-correction are important to ensure the integrity and trustworthiness of journalism. The Wire’s editors are experienced and ethical journalists and their work is supported by an independent ombudsperson, or readers’ or public editor, Pamela Philipose. Her fortnightly column published in The Wire on November 5, 2022 is helpful for its critical and constructive reflections and the lessons it offers for contemporary journalism. An instructive citation in the ombudsperson’s column is to an article, written by chief leader writer Randeep Ramesh, that The Guardian published for its bicentennial, “What we got wrong: the Guardian’s worst errors of judgment over 200 years” . It’s an extraordinary read.

There has been more than enough gloating over The Wire’s discomfiture and legal troubles in the social media and, to an extent, in the mainstream news media, most notoriously on a couple of television channels adept at doing hit jobs. The question has been raised: was it dishonourable for The Wire to throw Devesh Kumar, its journalistic collaborator, under the bus? The answer is simple: under normal circumstances it should and would have handled the matter internally through journalistic due process; but under the present circumstances it had no choice but to file a counter-complaint for legal reasons and to protect its reputation.  Fortunately, in this fraught situation, many professional media bodies, including the Editors Guild of India, organisations of working journalists, press clubs, and individual journalists have rallied in solidarity with The Wire. Further, editorials in major Indian newspapers have come out against the police action and the criminalisation of journalism when it stumbles or takes missteps.

In the midst of all this, the focus should not be taken away from what Meta, which is besieged by controversies and is under intense international scrutiny on various counts, is up to in India. The country which has, at 330 million, the world’s largest number of Facebook users and, at 230 million, the world’s largest number of Instagram users, has a vital stake in ensuring that the harms done by disinformation and misinformation that still circulate freely on these and other social media platforms, including Twitter, are minimised, even if they cannot be eliminated. The Indian news media have their task cut out: they must do careful and rigorous investigation, applying higher editorial standards, of the ways of the social media giants and the effects of the content circulating on their platforms.

Solidarity among journalists, solidarity deriving from concrete issues and based on principles, has never been more important than it is today. Let us remind ourselves that freedom of the press, which is constitutionally guaranteed as an integral part of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, has come under increasing pressure, risk, threat, and targeted assault in India over the past eight years, after a BJP-majority government came to power at the Centre, setting the stage for a communal-authoritarian offensive that has been termed “the second coming of Hindutva.” Let us remind ourselves that in 2022, India ranks 150th (only a little ahead of 157th-ranked Pakistan) among 180 countries and territories figuring in the annual World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters sans Frontières (RSF), a Paris-based independent organisation that dedicates itself to freedom of information.

I believe The Wire and the progressive, upstanding, and fearless journalism it exemplifies will emerge stronger thanks to the lessons learned from this serious setback.

Originally published in Front Line, India

Interview:  Why did Mahathir lose election so badly?

“For the first time in Malaysia’s history we are facing a hung parliament,” Pearl Lee, Managing Editor of Kuala Lumpur-based news website, Twentytwo13 told Sri Lanka Guardian in an exclusive interaction from the capital of the Country. With the outcoming of this election, “Malaysia will see a 4th pm being sworn into office in 5 years. Another unprecedented thing in the nation’s history.”

“None of the coalition parties, especially the main three, namely – Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional managed to secure a simple majority (112 from the 220 contested Parliamentary seats) to form the government,” she said.

According to Pearl, “The 15th General Election also saw Barisan Nasional’s worst-ever performance. Barisan Nasional is the country’s longest-serving political ruling coalition.”

“It is now up to the main coalition parties (mainly Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional) to present to Malaysia’s King that they are able to form alliances with the other smaller coalition to form the next government,” she added.

“This is the first time in the country’s history that a unity government will be set up. The national palace or Istana Negara had today given the coalition parties a large number of seats to present their alliance and name their prime minister candidate by 2 pm on Monday (Nov 21, 2022). If all goes well, the King could possibly announce the name of Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister by tomorrow evening,” she further observed.

While talking about the worse-ever defeat of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the modern father of nation-building in Malaysia, 53 years of his undefeated political journey, Pearl said that “Dr Mahathir Mohamad set up Pejuang in 2020 (after he resigned from his previous party, Bersatu and as Prime Minister for the second time). Pejuang lost all the seats that it contested in this general election (115 parliamentary seats). Even his son Mukhriz, who is Pejuang’s president, lost. Dr Mahathir contested in Langkawi while his son, Mukhriz, (a former chief minister of Kedah and federal cabinet minister) contested the Jerlun seat; both in their home state of Kedah.”

Why he lost this election, according to Pearl, because his newly established political party “is fairly a new party. It’s also a sign that the people are tired of his narrative, that every other coalition is wrong, and only his is right.”

“For the record, Dr Mahathir’s coalition (made up of smaller parties) is called Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) but it did not contest under that name in the election as Dr Mahathir claims the authorities have refused to register the coalition. As such, GTA contested under Pejuang’s logo,” she added.

However, when we asked about the significant challenges that the winning party is going to face, she says that “the challenge right now is who is willing to work with who, and this will be resolved once the King makes an announcement on the matter (earliest possibly tomorrow evening).”

“What lies ahead will be interesting to watch, as two coalition governments had to be set up following Dr Mahathir’s resignation in 2020. The nation saw Muhyiddin and later Ismail Sabri (of Barisan Nasional) being sworn in as the 8th and 9th prime minister respectively within a short period. Muhyiddin served 18 months as prime minister while Ismail Sabri served barely over a year as PM. The collapse of Muhyiddin’s coalition in 2021, was due to Barisan Nasional pulling out its support,” she added.

“The leader of the new alliance that will be formed now must ensure it can obtain continuous support from political parties that will form part of its alliance. But this could very well translate into a bloated cabinet line-up in order to please all parties. They would also have to convince the people how they plan to work with parties that they previously regard/openly declared as foes,” she further observed.

An apology to Our Readers

Regarding Bangladesh and its current government, it has been confirmed that there were many flaws in the two reports, first India’s Top Spy Agency Forms New Brigade to Protect Sheikh Hasina and second Bangladesh: True Architects of Brigade75, published by Sri Lanka Guardian a few days ago. Accordingly, as a media organization that respects people’s right to information and truth-based journalism, we have decided to remove them. We express our deep regret if any party has to face any inconvenience due to the contents of those two reports. Responsibility is not our choice but habit.

– Editorial Team