Sunday 15 May 2011

Hisham says newspapers should be given leeway

By Melissa Chi, Malaysianinsider

SUNGAI BESAR, May 15 — Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said today that newspapers should be given leeway despite stringent laws under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA).

“The law is very clear but everybody, every paper has crossed that line one time or another. This is probably Utusan’s time. Before this there was China Press, Nan Yang, I know, because it happened under my watch.
“But in such situations, we give them a little space. We find which is really news that can benefit us as one race, 1 Malaysia but they shouldn’t go past the boundaries which touches on sensitive issues such as religion and race,” he told reporters after launching the Sungai Besar Umno division meeting here at Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina Sin Min.

The latest controversy to rile the country’s dominant majority was the “Christian Malaysia” report first published by the Umno newspaper Utusan Malaysia on May 7.

The Umno daily carried a front-page article headlined “Kristian agama rasmi?” (Christianity the official religion?), claiming the DAP was conspiring with Christian leaders to take over Putrajaya and abolish Islam as the religion of the federation.

Utusan Malaysia’s report had been based entirely on unsubstantiated blog postings by two pro-Umno bloggers, alleging that the leaders had taken a pledge during the gathering promising to take over Putrajaya, abolish Islam as the religion of the federation and install a Christian prime minister.

The paper also published a grainy photograph showing what it described as a secret pact between the DAP and pastors at a hotel in Penang last Wednesday.

DAP and Christian leaders have since voiced their rage over the allegations and vehemently denied taking any part in such a pledge.

Hishammuddin said he wants to call the chief editors of every newspaper for a discussion.

“There are times when the Malay community is not happy with the reporting of the Chinese papers. And now the Chinese community are not happy with the reporting at Utusan.

“I think it is time now for us to get together and get the chief editors to tell me this change that is happening in the world that we cannot stop information from going across borders if it doesn’t go through the main papers, it will go through Facebook, it will go through the multimedia context and it will go through SMSes,” he said.
Hishammuddin said that he had met with chief editors individually but now, he wants “them as a whole to be responsible for their actions”.

“So this new landscape will require some internal soul-searching of the mainstream papers and this I will talk to all the papers across the board.

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