Show cause letters for 3 newspapersPosted: September 12, 2008
According to Bernama HERE, the Home Ministry issued some show-cause letters to certain newspapers. Syed Hamid Albar was reported to have said:
“Any media which we see have breached the conditions and guidelines, will be told to show cause and the reply must be made within a week. They should not consider the show-cause letter as our attempt to impose a restriction.
“We owe the responsibility to the society in general to ensure conflicts do not occur and anger is not prompted as a result of what we write about race, religion or even culture,”
There is one question that popped straight out at me, which I simply can’t think of any way to answer. What exactly are the ‘conditions and guidelines’ that the newspapers have to adhere to? I don’t know, and I don’t want to speculate. I simply want to know the answer, which unfortunately, unless I work in the papers, I wouldn’t know.
If there are strict guidelines that were written out for them to get their licenses in the first place, and they have breached it, then by all means, issue the show-cause letters.
There is, however, a second question. And this question refers to this quote in particular:
[…]to ensure conflicts do not occur and anger is not prompted as a result of what we write about race, religion or even culture
If we were talking about magazines, commentaries, or blogs for that matter, then it’s probably a wise thing to ensure that whatever is written doesn’t blatantly overstep the boundaries.
But aren’t newspapers supposed to be reporting NEWS?
To take from Mustafa K Anuar’s blog HERE:
Isn’t this tantamount to an attempt to metaphorically kill the messenger for the message that has been transmitted to the general public?
For example, the Sin Chew reporter and Ahmad Ismail case. If indeed Ahmad said something, and the reporter merely reported it, then why should the reporter, along with the newspaper, be issued a show-cause letter?
In fact, just to digress a little, this whole Ahmad case got out of hand not because it was reported, but because it took so long for Ahmad to respond. If indeed he was misquoted, wouldn’t it have been wiser for him to set the record straight on the second day the article was published? And of course, in milder language?
But that’s digression.
Let’s take this hypothetically. If someone influential says something about a certain race or religion or culture that would be of interest to the community, whether it is good or bad, and the reporter writes about it, whose fault is it if there is any disturbance at all? The reporter for doing his/her job? The newspaper for allowing the article to be published? Or the “someone influential” for saying that “something”?
Yes. The media has to be careful about what it writes, especially if it’s “sensitive”, much as I detest using the ‘S’ word. But I don’t believe the fault lies in the reporters for doing their job.
Still think the media doesn’t need the support of us people to help release them from the shackles that bind them? Please do endorse the Memorandum on Media Freedom. We need it.
**According to Anil Netto HERE, the three newspapers that have been issued show-cause letters are theSun, Sin Chew Jit Poh, and Suara Keadilan.
**According to Nat Tan HERE, the Home Ministry is targeting theSun because they were allegedly “manipulating and playing up numerous sensitive issues”, and Sin Chew Jit Poh for “its recent reports on the racial slur controversy involving Umno division leader Ahmad Ismail”.
To quote Nat Tan himself, which mirrors exactly what I’ve written above:
If a public figure says something seditious, and a newspaper reports it, the government goes after….. the newspaper?? 😐
Having read Nat Tan’s blog, suddenly I feel like I’ve been a little too mild. Was thinking of perhaps giving them (the Home Ministry) the benefit of the doubt. But looks like my initial “suspicion” that this show-cause letter thing is about the Ahmad Ismail issue was not too far off. Contrary to what the Home Ministry thinks, the fault lies NOT in the reporters who are merely doing their jobs.