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Muzzling mainstream media practices like
Internal Security Ministry warning against quoting and publishing
“anti-government” articles from online portals and blogs and Fu Ah Kow
playing role of “super media editor” most deplorable and must be stopped
(Dewan Rakyat, Wednesday) : I know I am going against the grain of government thinking in asking Parliament to give serious attention to blogs by Malaysians, especially when the Internal Security Ministry has just warned the mainstream newspapers in the country against quoting and publishing “anti-government articles” from online portals and blogs.
The clarification by the Internal Security Ministry’s Publications Control and Al-Quran Texts Unit senior officer Che Din Yusof who sent out the warning to mainstream newspapers that his letter was a “request” and not a “directive” does not wash, when newspapers were also reminded that condition 11 of their publishing permit required them to “follow and not act against” such directives issued by the ministry. “Perhatian tuan juga diingatkan kepada syarat nombor 11, Syarat-Syarat Permit Penerbitan yang menghendaki Pemegang Permit sentiasa mematuhi dan tidak melanggar arahan dari masa ke semasa yang dikeluarkan Kementerian.”
Che Din has said that the Internal Security Ministry does not want the newspapers to get the people to believe everything that come from blogs and the Internet portals.
Is it the business of the Internal Security Ministry to get the people to believe mainstream media and disbelieve blogs and Internet portals? Isn’t this a violation of the Bill of Guarantees proclaimed to the world by the Malaysian Government when launching the Multi-Media Super Corridor in 1996 – in trying to influence the mainstream media and the people at large to disbelieve blogs and Internet portals?
In fact, isn’t the government turning its back to the knowledge-based economy and the information and communication technology in taking such a stance against blogs and Internet portals?
Will the government support efforts of blogs and Internet portals to expose the lies and falsehoods in the mainstream media – particularly against Opposition and dissenting groups and Malaysians?
Is the Internal Security Ministry standing up for truth and diversity of opinions and views or is it just a mere instrument of government parties to suppress dissent and muzzle information unfavourable to the ruling coalition although this is good for the promotion of an information society and knowledge economy?
The government-controlled mainstream media had often been guilty of misinformation and disinformation about the Opposition, especially during general election campaigns.
There is no need to open this dark and shameful chapter of mainstream media in Malaysia as there are ample examples of the mainstream media not being a paragon of truth and virtue.
Early this month, the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan issued a bald denial that he had made a statement as published in a front-page Utusan Malaysia lead story, “Saya mahu BPR siasat Johari” on 5th March 2007.
In a statement published only by Bernama, Musa said he had neither been interviewed nor had he issued a statement as published.
The Utusan Malaysia story, by-lined Ruhaidini Abd. Kadir, had reported that Musa had said he did not want to enter into a polemic with the Deputy Internal Security Minister, Datuk Mohd Johari Baharom over the RM5.5 million Emergency Ordinance (EO) “freedom for sale” scandal and Johari’s claim that the police failed to provide sufficient evidence and did not investigate properly criminals referred to under the Emergency Ordinance.
Musa was reported to have called for a fair investigation to be conducted by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) to determine who was right or who was wrong in the allegation that Johari received RM5.5 million bribes for releasing criminal suspects under the Emergency Ordinance.
Who to believe – the Utusan Malaysia journalist Ruhaidini Abd. Kadir whose byline appeared next to the report or IGP Musa?
I would tend to believe Rahaidini for two reasons:
Firstly, the Utusan Malaysia front-page report carried a Q & A transcript of the interview with Musa – something which could not be concocted from thin air. Clearly Rahadidini had the interview with Musa on tape.
Secondly, if Rahaidini had concocted the interview in the Utusan Malaysia, Musa should have declared him a “persona non grata” and ban him from all police interviews and contacts.
But no, Musa continued to entertain Rahaidini, resulting in another front-page by-line story in the Utusan Malaysia, “Polis siasat suspek – Kenal pasti tahan bawah Ordinan Darurat boleh bebas – Musa” the very next day.
Was the Internal Security Ministry Publications Control Unit really concerned whether the truth or falsehoods are published in mainstream media, or is it only concerned about the growing influence of blogs and Internet portals?
The Internal Security Ministry’s attempt to muzzle and shackle the mainstream media, with the Deputy Internal Security Minister Fu Ah Kiow often calling up Chinese newspaper editors by playing the self-admitted role of “super media editor”, must be deplored, and such practices must be stopped – starting with the retraction of the directive to the mainstream newspapers by Che Din.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman