Thursday 12 May 2011

Utusan gets slap on the wrist from Home Ministry

The Home Ministry today issued a reprimand letter to Utusan Malaysia over the daily's front page article on May 7, titled Kristian Agama Rasmi? (Christianity the official religion?).

azlanA reprimand letter requires no follow up action by the newspaper, as compared with a demand to show cause, and is akin to just a slap on the wrist.
According to a Home Ministry statement, Utusan's editor-in-chief Aziz Ishak was called and the letter handed to him.

"It is the Home Ministry's practice to call and demand an explanation from news organisations on their decision to publish materials that are deemed to be against the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, and issue a reprimand letter for that offence.

"The Home Ministry will continue to monitor every newspaper in order to prevent news which would menggemparkan (infuriate) the minds of the people or material that is against the PPPA 1984," the statement said.

It was issued just hours after Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak held a meeting with Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM). During the luncheon meeting, CFM representatives expressed disdain over the Utusan article, which has been vehemently denied by Christian leaders.

The article alleged that a group of pastors had participated in a gathering in Penang recently, which involved DAP elected representatives, where they discussed a plot to turn Malaysia into a Christian country and install a Christian prime minister. 

Is Utusan untouchable?
No evidence of this allegation was offered by Utusan, who sourced the story from two pro-Umno blogs. One of the two had deleted article that was sourced by Utusan. Utusan's critics however are likely to point out that the daily, which is owned by Umno, enjoy impunity and always gets away with a mere light reprimand while other dailies have received suspension of printing licenses or have it withdrawn altogether.

For example, Higher Education Deputy Minister Wee Ka Siong wrote on Twitter after the home ministry statement was issued, that in the case of China Press editor-in-chief Teoh Yoog Khoon, he was suspended two weeks over an inaccurate news report.
"(The China Press) report did not cause disharmony among Malaysians of all races. Many people will compare the damage caused by Utusan's report to (that) of China Press

"We love this country, there is no room for people who spread lies particularly sensitive issue like religion. Justice must not only been (serve) it must be perceived well by people," said Wee. [The quote has been edited for clarity]

In Teoh's case, the home ministry had issued a show cause letter over an article which claimed that the then Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan would quit in March last year.

Following this, Home Ministry Deputy Chief Secretary Ahmad Fuad Ab Aziz said that any follow up action would be left to China Press' management. 

Police reports lodged
Unlike the China Press incident, many police reports have been lodged against Utusan over the article for flouting sedition laws among others. Bukit Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi, who was named in the article, have also lodged a police report.
Christian leaders had previously asked for action against Utusan, although Najib did not promise this during the meeting.

"They have accepted my advice that we remain calm on the matter and not to do anything that will increase tension among the community," Najib told reporters after the meeting, according to Bernama.

He added that CFM, which represents more than 90 percent of churches in the country, had pledged to respect Islam's position in the country and has no intention of challenging constitutional provisions relating to the religion.

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