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Media statement by Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, 20th July 2011: 

Utusan hitting the streets with blacked-out headlines, blotches of black and full pages in black if it gets "Economist" treatment from Home Ministry

The UMNO official organ, Utusan Malaysia, will be hitting the newsstands every day with blacked-out headlines in front or inside pages, blotches of black or even full pages in black if it is given the Economist treatment by Home Ministry “censoring incorrect and misleading information”.

And what a sight it would be!

This is because no other mainstream media in Malaysia could compete with Utusan for the tonnage of garbage, lies and falsehoods it purveys everyday!

It would undoubtedly make Utusan Malaysia the only one newspaper of its kind in the world as to justify to get into both the Guinness and Malaysia Books of Records!

Furthermore, it would give such a boost to the black-ink industry as to make it one of the most profitable lines of business in the country!

Not trying to be facetious or funny, but Pakatan Rakyat cannot find a better candidate to helm the most inappropriately-named Publications Control and Quranic Text Division of the Home Ministry as it takes quite a special genius to be able to turn both the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak into instant home and international jokes with one stroke of the pen!

Furthermore, Najib’s 1Malaysia Government Transformation Programme has also suffered a fatal hit – as what serious government transformation could the Prime Minister intended when important government departments are blissfully unaware of the advent, impact and consequences of Internet and an information society.

If the idea is to create an enormous public interest in a print article which is also available online, the most effective way is for the government to ban, censor or “blacken” it for it will create such enormous interest as to immediately drive readers online to read the full article or the “censored” parts – which is exactly what happened to the Economist article entitled “Taken to the cleaners — an overzealous government response to an opposition rally” on the police high-handedness and the gross government mishandling of the 709 Bersih 2.0 rally.

There are now many times more readers of the Economist online as a result of this article “black-out” – no wonder the Economist management took the ham-fisted Home Ministry action with considerable aplomb. In fact, Economist should send a complimentary contribution to Home Ministry for helping to boost its overall readership!

The Home Ministry inked out four lines in the Economist article, one of which notably reported on the death of Baharuddin Ahmad during the 709 rally – a martyr for the cause for free and fair elections and a Clean Malaysia.

The ministry also inked out three other lines in the article which spoke of “heavy-handed police tactics”, the controversial teargas and chemical bombardment on the Tung Shin Hospital and how the government withdrew its stadium offer.

The blotted out parts read: “The march itself was then banned, although the authorities offered Bersih a stadium to meet in — and then withdrew the offer” and “The heavy-handed police tactics have provoked a lot of anger; the government has conceded an official investigation into claims of police brutality. In one instance (caught on film), police seemed to fire tear gas and water cannon into a hospital where protesters were sheltering from a baton charge”.

Has it ever occurred to those responsible for the Publications Control and Quranic Text Division that their action is downright antediluvian and stupidest that could be thought of, as it is totally self-defeating in promoting greater interest and readership of the Economist article concerned.

If Najib is serious about Government Transformation Programme, he should totally revamp the Home Ministry to ensure that it could be “smart” by firstly, ensuring that only those with IT and information age mindset fully primed that there is no way to curb information flow are placed in charge; secondly, splitting up the two departments as Publications Control and Quranic Text as they should not come under one roof.

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor



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