(Najib pic courtesy of theSun)
PETALING JAYA, 9 April 2009: Chinese online news site Merdeka Review was barred from entering the Prime Minister’s Department today to report on the announcement of the new cabinet.
The order to bar Merdeka Review‘s reporter and photographer was issued by the prime minister’s office, according to an officer who declined to fully identify himself.
Reporter Wong Shu Qi said upon her arrival at the guardhouse of the prime minister’s office at 2.30pm today with photographer Saw Siow Feng, she was asked which media outfit they were with.
Once she identified their news organisation, she was immediately told by the security personnel that Merdeka Review was barred.
“When I asked why, they told me they were only following instructions,” she told The Nut Graph.
Wong was then given a phone number and the name of an officer said to be Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s “pegawai khas”.
“When I asked him why Merdeka Review was being barred, he told me it was an order from the prime minister’s office,” she said. “He said he wasn’t sure why we were being barred, and there was no black-and-white instruction.”
Wong said the security personnel at the guard house told her that the officer had earlier informed them to bar Merdeka Review from entering the Prime Minister’s Department for Najib’s 3pm cabinet announcement.
When The Nut Graph rang the officer, he confirmed that he was merely carrying out instructions from the prime minister’s office. He declined to give his full name or to fully identity his position in the prime minister’s administration.
Other online news sites such as Malaysiakini and The Nut Graph were allowed in.
Merdeka Review editor-in-chief Chang Teck Peng said this was the first time they had been barred from the Prime Minister’s Department.
“We didn’t have problems going in to report before, even when we hadn’t yet gotten our Information Department media accreditation tags,” he said in a phone interview.
The barring of Merdeka Review from Najib’s announcement happened just three days after Najib delivered a speech at the Malaysian Press Institute’s Press Night on 6 April 2009, where he stressed on the need for a “vibrant, free and informed media”.
In his speech, delivered on his fourth day as premier, he also said, “If we are to build a democracy that is responsive to the needs of all the people, we need a media — both old and new — that is empowered to responsibly report what they see, without fear of consequence, and to hold governments and public officials accountable for the results they achieve or do not achieve.”
Tshiung Han See says
Nice report, Jacqueline. Let’s hope foreign news sources pick it up. Unlikely since they also are allowed to operate in the country by the grace of the government.
Now we know why they say “Never, ever, trust a politician”. They can convince you to build a 200 span iron bridge in the Sahara Desert. This is only the beginning. Now with Keris Hish in the Home office and his strong feelings about utilising the ISA ruthlessly, we can be assured of more restrictive rules and regulations and the police, MACC and immigration whooping it up.
Why do people tend to believe in the repeated rhetorics of politicians. Even the press could get duped as we can see from this incident.
Tshiung Han See says
Until the government decides to take it down, the speech is available here: http://www.pmo.gov.my/index_full.php?menu=speech&news_id=117&page=1676&speech_cat=2
Why ah? Why only Merdeka Review? What news have they carried that PM wants to blacklist them? So all the dosh about quality and free media is just rubbish, isn’t it?
Hafidz Baharom says
Sigh….transparency transparency transparency….
When will the government finally understand the need for it….
“Judge me by my actions!” Well, it’s quite clear that PM Najib’s actions are quite contradictory to his words, no? Which means that he is not serious about any reforms. He is just into media spin. And the sooner we all realise this, the better we can deal with this new regime.
Din Haron says
When the PM say “No”, it means “Yes” and “Yes”, it means “No”. It’s “reverse action”. These has been the practice dulu, kini and selamanya. Till when will the rakyat learn?
Gopal Raj Kumar says
To be refused entry into a press conference or an event where the press is usually invited is at the discretion of the host.
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher revived this practice, a variant of McCarthyism, that has become the staple of most governments the world over.
Since privatisation of the media worldwide and the proximity of government (through its largesse paid in advertising and other facilitation revenue) with media interests, they the media have been quick to shed their ethics, morals and shift their individual biases to make sure they do not bite the proverbial hand that feeds them.
It is a somewhat precarious and perfidious dalliance between government, vested interests and the media that occurs each day an event occurs and someone is privileged to relay the event to the public.
What happened to this particular media outlet is not something that the international media would bother about. Why? They are all collectively guilty of acting in their interests first in preference to public interest and the truth.
The taking of a life like that of Kugan’s has lost its currency with Malaysia’s altenative media. Yet it was a human life taken in the custody of an all powerful government instrument. But it belonged to a lower class person not part of the emerging trendies of the X or Y or baby boomer generation.
So why would the exclusion of Merdeka Review warrant any attention of the world media?
The honeymoon is over. Mahathirism rears its head.
You knew Najib was talking [rhetoric] when he mentioned the words, “free press” in one sentence.
There is no free press in Malaysia. None sanctioned by government, that is.
This has only increased the mystery surrounding Merdeka Review. Now everyone would want to visit that site. I’m going to right now. Great advertising, don’t you think?
10 April 2009
CIJ, WAMI: Najibâ€™s credibility in media freedom shattered
Any credibility Prime Minister Najib Razak may have had when he called for “embracing” the new media and “promoting a free environment” was shattered on the day he announced his cabinet line-up, say the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the Writers for Media Independence (WAMI).
Only six days into his prime ministership, an online media, merdekareview.com has been barred from covering the announcement of Najibâ€™s new cabinet line-up. It had recently published commentaries criticising pro-Najib stories in the best-selling Chinese press, Sin Chew Jit Poh.
CIJ and WAMI warn that the PM’s move in centralising the governance of broadcast and internet media â€“ under the purview of the Ministry of Information, Communication, Arts and Literature might simply mean more news censorship and tighter control for those media.
Already, the appointment of Hishammudin Hussein as Home Minister has raised doubts about whether more space for dialogue is possible. The former Umno Youth chief has on the record vocally supported the Internal Security Act and sparked ethno-nationalist controversies with his incendiary language.
To salvage his credibility in promoting openness, CIJ and WAMI call upon the PM to announce both a plan and a timetable to set up a Parliamentary Select Committee tasked with reviewing all media laws. This parliamentary panel would ensure broad-based public consultation and allow real reform.
CIJ and WAMI maintain that barring journalists from reporting violates principles of media freedom. Any media outlet must be allowed to cover all official events, regardless of its owner’s political affiliation or style of reporting.
CIJ and WAMI call upon both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat to show their commitment for media freedom. This ban by the Prime Ministerâ€™s Office, as well as the Pakatan Rakyat Penang governmentâ€™s earlier ban of the English daily New Straits Times from its official functions, demonstrates further that both are willing only to pay lip service to the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and information.
Wong Chin Huat
Writers’ Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
To answer the question: “Why Merdeka Review?”
The widely-believed answer: It has published two articles in a row strongly criticising the best-selling Chinese daily, Sin Chew Daily, for publishing a series of [positive] articles on Najib after his visit to the press.
The next question: Who did the translation for the PM’s office?
Andrew I says
There’s a character in the British sitcom, “The Vicar of Dibley” who answers most questions with no, no, no, no, no, no err.. yes.
Not funny, until he really means no. Then, a yes doesn’t follow…obviously.
If only some of our own politicians could be as predictable as he is.