Utusan Malaysia does not enjoy legal immunity

By G Vinod | May 13, 2011
Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: The consensus is that Utusan Malaysia does not and should not enjoy immunity for its irresponsible reporting. Political party leaders feel that what the paper ran could have caused religious discord.

A common stand among the party leaders is that a mere warning to the paper is not enough.

DAP’s assistant national publicity secretary, Teo Nie Ching, said this was because its headline could have triggered a religious discord among Malaysians.

“(Prime Minister) Najib (Tun Razak) should prove to the public that Utusan Malaysia does not enjoy legal immunity for its irresponsible reporting,” Teo said in a statement.

On Saturday, Utusan Malaysia carried a front-page article headlined “Kristian agama rasmi?” (Christianity the official religion?), claiming that DAP was conspiring with Christian leaders to instal Christianity as the religion of the federation instead of Islam.

The report drew criticisms from the public, prompting the home ministry to issue a warning letter to its editor-in chief Aziz Ishak yesterday.

Teo, who is also Serdang MP, said many other dailies suffered worse punishment from the home ministry for lesser offence.

“Last year, China Press was slapped with a two-week suspension over the daily’s ‘inaccurate report’ on the resignation of then-Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan, even after the daily published an apology on its front page.

“Similarly, Sin Chew Daily’s senior journalist ,Tan Hoon Cheng, was arrested under the Internal Security Act in 2008 for reporting a speech by Bukit Bendera Umno division chairman Ahmad Ismail during the Permatang Pauh by-election, where he referred to the Malaysian Chinese as immigrants,” she said.

Teo reminded the home ministry that the damage done by Utusan Malaysia was serious enough to compel Najib to meet the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) yesterday.

“Yet, Utusan was let off the hook with a mere a warning from the ministry,” she said.

Yesterday, Najib met CFM chairman Bishop Ng Moon Hing to speak about the matter and reportedly said the Christians have pledged to respect Islam as the religion of the federation.

Teo criticised Utusan Malaysia for reporting news based on unsubstantiated blog postings by two pro-Umno bloggers, without even trying to verify the details.

“They even accused Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi of being in cohoots with some pastors to turn Malaysia into a Christian nation. Worse, Utusan did not even seek clarification from DAP on the matter,” she said.

PAS Youth leader Nasrudin Hassan called Utusan Malaysia a daily which was “possessed” in reporting wild and provocative news without thinking of the consequences.

“It is clear that Utusan wants to show that it works as a mouthpiece for certain quarters so badly that it is willing ignore basic jounalistic principles,” said Nasrudin.

‘Only for Umno members’

Accusing Utusan Malaysia of demeaning itself, Nasrudin was disappointed that the daily’s management which was highly regarded in the past had lost its maturity and rational thinking.

“Utusan Malaysia has now become Umno’s mouthpiece. I suggest the daily indicate on the front page that it is solely for Umno members .

“Sooner or later, Utusan Malaysia will lose its readership and other Malay dailies will take its place,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gerakan vice-president Mah Siew Keong praised Najib for holding a meeting with Christian leaders to discuss the controversy.

“His immediate response had reduced tension to a certain level. It shows that the premier is a moderate leader who is fully committed to the spirit of 1Malaysia,” said Mah.

He also said that a mere warning letter was insufficient and urged the government to wield the axe against Utusan.

“Many non-governmental organisations have told me that a reprimand letter is too mild in view of the seriousness of the problem,” he said.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Friday, 13 May 2011 - 2:40 pm

    Like it or not, it is not the legality or the unfairness of what Utusan does that will affect them. What will affect them is the SHAME they bring to the people associated with them OR actual lost of income an power.

    If you listen to the critics that understand it well – those from PAS, the believers of original UMNO, they way they phrase their criticism is to deliver shame to Utusan first and foremost.

    The other choice is to hit them with lost of income and distribution. Mount a boycott of anyone who advertise, sell or even buy the paper – that is actually harder to do.

  2. #2 by dagen on Friday, 13 May 2011 - 3:35 pm

    Utusan does not enjoy legal immunity. Now that is a fact. And utusan actually does enjoy absolute legal immunity. And that is a reality.

    Confusing? Yes. Certainly. That is umno. One big mess. Anarchy.

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