Media statement (2) by Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, 23rd September 2010:
Call on political parties from both sides of divide - BN and PR - and civil society to come forward to defend Hata Wahari and NUJ to uphold professional ethics and integrity of Malaysian journalists
Congratulations to Hata Wahari the newly elected President of National Union of Journalists (NUJ) for bringing in fresh air with the courage of conviction to uphold journalistic professionalism and ethics.
Although Hata is from Utusan Malaysia, he has drawn the line in the sand to uphold, defencd and promote journalistic ethics and professionalism when he blamed Utusan Malaysia’s editors for the daily’s frequent run-ins with politicians.
Hatta, who is a senior journalist at Utusan, said the conflicts were between the daily's chief editor Aziz Ishak, backed by senior editors, against the politicians from both BN and Pakatan Rakyat.
He said: "NUJ sees that it is unfair to fault Utusan Malaysia which includes journalists, photographers, graphic artists and other staff who don't share the agenda (of the editors).
"They also do not have the authority to criticise the chief editor and the senior editors.
"NUJ is also of the opinion that the chief editor and senior editors of Utusan were not advocating media freedom but instead merely fulfilling the needs of their 'political masters'."
I am sure all the suffering journalists in the mainstream media, who have not been able to fully practise the ethics and professionalism of their craft, fully endorse the intrepid stand taken by Hata, who deserves the support of political parties from both sides of the divide – Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat – as well as the civil society.
Hata’s stand has attracted an immediate attack from Utusan Malaysia Veteran's Club president Raja Ahmad Niza Raja Ismail who lambasted him for "going against the company", calling on Hata to resign from the company if the latter "insists on biting the hand that feeds him".
I agree that there is no reason for Hata to resign from Utusan. Hata has a higher duty not only to defend professional ethics and integrity of Malaysian journalists but also the interests and welfare of more than 1,000 staff working under in Utusan Malaysia to ensure that newspapers do not discredit and kill themselves by becoming “rubbish” papers.
At a time when the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is talking about a national transformation to take Malaysia to another stage of development, this transformation must include the restoration of the honour, ethics, high standards and integrity of the profession of journalism in Malaysia.
For this reason, I call on BN and PR - political parties from both sides of fence – and civil society to come forward to defend Hata Wahari and NUJ to protect and uphold high standards, ethics and integrity of the journalistic profession which have become rare commodities in the mainstream media.
Raja Ahmad’s talk about not “biting the hand that feed him” reminds me of Utusan Malaysia’s sidelining of the RM1.3 trillion Economic Transformation Programme of the Najib administration which was announced by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala on Tuesday.
This was front-page headline in yesterday’s New Straits Times “RM1.3 tril investment roadmap”, Star “RM115 bil start – Seven projects under ETP to triple nation’s income” and Sun “No business for govt” but conspicuously absent from Utusan Malaysia’s front-page, as it was relegated to lesser importance in the inside pages.
Who is biting the “hand that feeds him”?
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz asked Utusan Malaysia a most pertinent question as to who is the Utusan Malaysia’s boss if not Najib as Umno President.
Instead of asking Wata to resign from Utusan Malaysia, Raja Ahmad should have asked the Utusan chief editor Aziz Ishak to leave Utusan if he is not prepared to accept Najib as Prime Minister and Umno President unless they have hijacked Utusan Malaysia in an ongoing plot and conspiracy to unseat Najib both as Prime Minister and Umno President.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor