LETTERS: We live in a time of proliferation of information. Information, regardless of whether it's verified, is shared on social media with the click of a finger.
Facts, pseudo facts and lies are jumbled up, and for the less astute, it is not easy to differentiate what is real and what is fake.
Those who consider themselves educated and politically astute are not necessarily immune to manipulations that can hijack the narrative by feeding into the unchecked prejudices of readers.
"The Great Hack", a 2019 award-winning documentary on Netflix, comes to mind.
The film, based on real-life events, explores how a data company, Cambridge Analytica, came to symbolise the dark side of social media in the wake of the 2016 United States presidential election that saw Donald Trump, trumping over Hillary Clinton, building on the narrative of "Clinton, the liar."
I have been examining the chronology of events that culminated in the crisis besetting Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki, whereby civil society and political parties are calling for his resignation.
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 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 of the chief commissioner being guilty even before any real evidence is shown.
This is public relations nightmare, but 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.
The case in question happened in 2015 and 2016, and Azam, as the facts stand, returned all the shares to his brother, and in the process, made a loss.
There is no evidence of insider trading that enabled Azam or his brother to make a handsome profit from the purchase.
He had 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.
As the facts stands, what Azam has committed is the grave crime of being tried and found guilty by the (social) media and by public perception.
Hence, the questions astute observers should ask are: Why now, when the issue of Azam's share occurred six years ago?
Who is behind the tweets, presenting itself as a whistleblower, when they are clearly the job of cybertroopers intent on bringing down some people in the government?
The tweets managed to get the attention of an "investigative journalist", who merely retweeted them in a more structured, formal essay, and having gained publication in an online media outfit, is now facing a RM10 million defamation suit.
Could the timing be set to explode just months before the 15th General Election?
This year is also the year when high-profile corruption cases will likely see court verdicts.
We know that MACC, under Azam, has been investigating cases of corrupt politicians from both sides of the political divide.
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? Who gains from the creation of a trust deficit in the government?
You can see the two forces coalescing into a single entity to attack the chief commissioner and to cast doubts on MACC.
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.
However, they need to be careful that they are not playing into the hands of those who have their own agendas, unless they also have their own agendas.