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MKLetters: Another blow to PM, media independence

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    http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/130340 LETTERS: Another blow to PM, media independence Dr Lim Teck Ghee | Apr 27, 10 3:51pm On April 22, senior producer
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 28, 2010

      LETTERS: Another blow to PM, media independence
      Dr Lim Teck Ghee | Apr 27, 10 3:51pm

      On April 22, senior producer Joshua Wong Ngee Choong announced his
      resignation from ntv7. He said he did so because of complaints from the
      Prime Minister's Department and prime minister's wife Rosmah Mansor in
      reaction to two recent Chinese talk show programmes focusing on current
      political developments.

      According to Wong, the company Natseven TV Sdn Bhd has now set restrictions
      for the 'offensive' show 'Editor's Time' which 'are not justifiable,
      threaten(s) the independence of my job as producer.is also a form of
      self-censorship, (and). is against the principle of fair and independent
      reporting. These restrictions have seriously affected the professionalism of
      the [production] team'.

      Besides implicating various senior staff of the television station for
      pressuring him to engage in self-censorship aimed at pleasing the BN and
      Umno leadership, Wong disclosed that he had learnt that 'the First Lady
      (Rosmah) complained about . Penang roadshow (held on April 8) - all the way
      from Washington' and that he 'later found that the First Lady had received
      complaints from other people, and she re-directed the complaint to the top

      As for the role played by the Prime Minister's Department, below is the SMS
      complaint that Wong states was conveyed by the PM's department. Centre for
      Policy Initiatives (CPI) translation (for original, see footnote). Extracts:

      'They (the ntv7 programme, its panelists and studio audience) mock the KPI
      and BN's position. Mock '1Malaysia'. Challenge PM to comprehensively revamp
      BTN. Question the action of Dato Nasir Safar when Dato Nasir has
      courageously resigned (as Najib Razak's aide).

      .What is very dangerous, they demand the freedom of speech, right from the
      start of the debate session just now. Meaning, no investigation is required
      to be made, the way they talk and they allow the audience to ask questions
      (gives the impression) as if our government is so bad.

      What more do these Chinese want, they are (already) richer than the Malays.
      I suggest that we wage war on these Chinese. [Appeal] to Malay
      Parliamentarians, Umno/Supreme Council and all Umno leaders, wake up . they
      are increasingly biadab/ill-mannered'.

      Natseven TV belongs to Media Prima, the country's most powerful media
      conglomerate that similarly owns 100 percent equity interest in TV3, 8TV and
      TV9. It also owns 90% of the News Straits Times Press.

      Sitting on Media Prima's board of directors are, among others, former Utusan
      Malaysia editor- in-chief Johan Jaafar, former NST group editor Ahmad A
      Talib and prominent businesspeople some of whom are associated with Umno.
      Media Prima's largest shareholder is Gabungan Kasturi, reportedly owned by
      Amanah Raya - a trust management company belonging wholly to the Malaysian
      government holding the shares through the Minister of Finance

      Media Prima's main minority shareholder is the Employees Provident Fund
      (note: EPF's investment panel is headed by former chief secretary to the
      government Samsudin Osman). The role of ntv7 in this scheme of things is
      that the free-to-air station positions itself as the 'Home of Feel Good -
      Malaysia's Favourite Chinese and Urban Station'; in other words, it is
      targeted mainly at a Chinese and urban demographic.

      In giving the reasons for his resignation, Wong alleges that Sofwan Mahmood
      (whom the Media Prima corporate directory lists as ntv7 deputy
      editor-in-chief, news) '...said that it is not advisable to talk about (the
      Hulu Selangor by-election) as.the show will embarrass Najib's administration

      Wong also alleges that his superior Tan Boon Kooi had informed him of the
      'advice' given by Media Prima group editor (News and Current Affairs) Manja
      Ismail that opposition MP Tony Pua should not be invited as guest speaker
      (note: Manja was the Berita Harian group editor from April 2006).

      From the above, it can be seen that all terrestrial television, although
      ostensibly private stations, have indirect links to either Umno or the
      Umno-controlled federal government, and that their key decision-makers are
      the Media Prima bigwigs who have a career history in corporate entities that
      are strongly pro-Umno.

      Questions for the prime minister. These are our questions for Najib.

      1. Wong has made a serious allegation that the complaint against his
      programme was conveyed by Rosmah. Najib's high-profile wife holds no public
      office but is playing a partisan political role surpassing that of any other
      spouse of previous prime ministers. Najib should clarify whether Rosmah or
      her staff issued the cease-and-desist order to Media Prima and ntv7.

      2. Is Najib aware that the instructions to Wong purportedly came from his PM
      's Department? These instructions to 'Editor's Time' were, in effect, to
      gloss over or blackout coverage of political developments in Hulu Selangor
      that are unfavourable to the ruling party.

      If the allegation is false, then Najib quickly should reassure the public
      that the government is not pulling the strings on what news and views are
      fit for public consumption.

      3. Apart from this specific case of blatant intimidation and attempted
      censorship of a supposedly private television station, TV1 and TV2 are
      state-controlled television stations with no autonomy either to exercise
      free and fair reporting.

      Can the prime minister clarify whether there is a direct chain of command
      from his office and his officers giving directives to the civil servants
      heading these national broadcasters? We note that RTM director-general
      Ibrahim Yahaya was former Berita Harian editor-in-chief and TV3 broadcasting

      Wong's resignation should not be treated as another run-of-the-mill case of
      a middle- management media practitioner coming up against the stone wall of
      political masters and media owners dictating content.

      Instead, his resignation puts the spotlight on how corrupt the stifled
      system has become. How can a current affairs programme be barred by ntv7
      from discussing the Hulu Selangor by-election just because Umno wants to
      exercise damage control and only permit views that portray the party, its
      leadership and its governance in a rosy light?

      More pertinently, Wong asks 'How can we continue to keep silent, to tolerate
      and allow these [abuses of power] to happen again and again?' Other
      Malaysians are asking the same questions.

      The BN has maintained its stranglehold on power because the mainstream
      mediam (MSM) has colluded to keep it in power.

      From Wong's superior Tan Boon Kooi to Lee Lam Thye who sits in Media Prima's
      board of directors to the handsomely paid hacks in the print media, the
      professional disinformation industry has aided and abetted in propping up
      Umno hegemony.

      Slanting information and depriving audiences of alternative views while at
      the same time setting a biased agenda and story angle is tantamount to
      brainwashing the masses. Wong is to be applauded for his principled
      resignation. We are glad that his break with the cartel has allowed the
      dirty racket that has been operating in the mainstream media for so long to
      now be revealed.

      We must build on this revelation of the mainstream media's inner workings to
      ensure that government control over what Malaysians can view and read is
      truly breached so that the electorate is no longer kept in the dark.

      Footnote: Mereka memperlekehkan KPI dan polisi BN. Memperlekehkan
      '1Malaysia'. Mencabar PM agar rombak besar-besaran BTN. Mempertikaikan
      tindakan Dato Nasir Safar sedangkan Dato Nasir telah berani meletakkan
      [Nga] Kor Ming dengan bangganya membangkitkan isu pemberian tanah kepada
      orang ramai di Perak. Wee Ka Siong gagal pertahankan isu MCA apa lagi nak
      pertahankan polisi Umno dan BN. Ketua Pemuda MCA set markah 75 kepada PM
      dalam usaha KPI. Ada usul telus FDI dengan kurangkan kos operasi.

      Ada usul penilaian KPI oleh rakyat ketua jabatan sahaja. Yang sangat bahaya,
      dia orang minta kebebasan bersuara bermula dengan sesi debat tadi. Makna
      tiada siasatan perlu dibuat, cara mereka bercakap dan membiarkan penonton
      bertanya soalan seolah-olah kerajaan kita ini terlalu teruk.

      Apa lagi cina-cina nie nak, mereka lagi kaya dari Melayu. Saya cadang kita
      perang jer dengan cina-cina nie... Melaru kepada semua ahli-ahli parlimen
      Melayu/Umno/MT dan semua pemimpin Umno, wake up... mereka semakin biadap.
      The writer is director, Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI).

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      Another TV producer claims political meddling
      Apr 28, 10 3:44pm

      Another television producer - this time from RTM's TV2 - has claimed
      political interference in his work after his documentary on the Bakun Dam
      was taken off the air allegedly due to Barisan Nasional concerns over it
      chances in the upcoming Sibu by-election.


      In a blog post today, the producer of the documentary, Chou Z Lam (left),
      revealed that the show was taken off the air under the direct instruction of
      RTM's chief broadcast executive Ibrahim Yahya.

      "RTM's newsroom chief executive Jumat Engson said the documentary was taken
      off the air because it had sensitive elements that could be harmful (for BN)
      in the upcoming Sibu by-election as well as the Sarawak state elections,"
      read the blog post.

      Chou was instead told that the documentary would be postponed to 'a more
      appropriate time'.

      Chou's allegation comes barely a week after award-winning journalist and
      producer Joshua Wong quit his position in ntv7 following what he said was
      constant political interference in his show, the last straw being a ban on
      discussing the recent Hulu Selangor by-election.

      Chou's nine-part documentary was for a RTM2 programme entitled "Galeri
      Mandarin Nasional" and was supposed to have run from last Monday to May 7 in
      the 12.20pm to 12.30pm slot. The first two episodes have been aired.

      'People first' or 'politics first'?

      However, the following episode, to have been aired today, was taken off the
      air. It focussed on the social impact of the building of the Bakun Dam on
      the natives of Belaga who were forced to be relocated to Sungai Asap and
      Sungai Koyan in 1998.

      "This is another news interference by the government during and after the
      Hulu Selangor by-election," Chou said on his blog.

      "I feel deeply sorry for the people of Sungai Asap whom I had interviewed,
      as their problems and voices are being prevented from being heard by the
      majority of the people both in East and West Malaysia," he added.

      Chou said that the move was totally against Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak
      's '1Malaysia' slogan of 'People first'.

      "If the Sibu by-election and the Sarawak state election are reasons for the
      show to be taken off the air, then what RTM is implementing is actually
      'politics first'", he said.

      'No such orders'

      Chou said he had sought the help of deputy information, unity, culture and
      arts minister Heng Sai Kee to reverse the RTM directive but was told that
      the ministry would not interfere in RTM affairs.

      Chou through his blog appealed to Ibrahim to reconsider his decision for the
      sake of RTM's credibility and the natives of Sarawak.

      When contacted, Ibrahim denied that he had ordered the documentary to be
      taken off the air.

      "I did not give such orders [...] you should ask Chou instead," said


      Joshua Wong caper marks a nadir
      Terence Netto | Apr 28, 10 9:32am

      For perspective the brouhaha over producer Joshua Wong's resignation from
      NTV7 over alleged interference - from the Prime Minister's Department no
      less - must be seen against the history of politically-aligned ownership of
      privately-owned media outlets.

      This history would mock the pretensions of some solid practitioners of the
      craft of journalism who in the early 1970s felt that they could weather the
      threat of undue interference raised in the wake of government-owned
      companies buying equity in privately owned newspapers.

      The avenue for government interference was paved in the early 1970s when
      Umno Youth clamored for the 'Malaysianisation' of the 'Straits Times', then
      the largest selling English newspaper in the country, owned by AC Simmons
      who resided in Singapore.

      This 'Malaysianisastion', which turned out to be essentially 'Malay-isation'
      , was justified under the mantle of the New Economic Policy, one of whose
      aims was to equip a Malay managerial class with the skills to run companies
      whose majority stake had been purchased by government-linked companies
      (GLCs, a term not yet in vogue in the early 1970s).
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