Media headlines on the Sabah conflict

MANILA, Philippines - Conflicting accounts from the Sultanate of Sulu, the Philippine government, and Malaysia did not serve to clear confusion on Friday, March 1, over what is really happening in Sabah.

News about gunshots being fired broke on Twitter early Friday morning. A dzRH tweet mentioned how Rajah Mudah Kiram, brother of the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, said shots were being fired while he was in an interview.

RAJA MUDA KIRAM: Nagbabarilan na! Oo, nagbabarilan na! #Sabah — DZRH News (@dzrhnews) March 1, 2013

Later, Sulu Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said 10 were dead and 4 wounded, but according to Malacañang deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte there was no firefight and no deaths.

Malaysian media reports

Here's a compilation of what the Malaysian media are reporting:

The Star of Malaysia's first report read, "Lahad Datu stand-off: Two Sulu gunmen shot dead," while Malaysia Today's headline on the conflict said, "Lahad Datu stand-off: Sulu Sultan's brother says shots fired at them."

The report about the 10 deaths and 4 wounded was also carried by the Star of Malaysia. however noted 12 dead, with a headline saying, "Two M'sians among 12 killed in Lahad Datu."

The Star also quoted Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein as saying that Malaysian armed forces did not fire the first shot, according to a tweet from his account. The Star story began with "Negotiations with a group of armed Sulu gunmen are not over although the deadline for them to leave Sabah has passed."

Lahad Datu - I comfirm that our security forces have not taken a single shot but were shot at at 10am this morning ! — Hishammuddin Hussein (@HishammuddinH2O) March 1, 2013

The Star carried one additional report on the conflict, with Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak saying the situation would become more dangerous if the Sulu sultanate's party does not leave. Other Malaysian media outlets have been  more direct, with a Malaysia Today report headlined, "Lahad Datu invaders say will ‘never surrender.’"

More neutral?

The BBC titled its report on the standoff with "'Shots fired' at Sabah stand-off site in Malaysia."

Al-Jazeera used "Malaysia raids Sabah village to end standoff."

The media are reporting on this polarizing issue wearing different lenses, and audiences are sure to have a different appreciation, depending on what they're reading. - 

Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.