‘No need for Najib to apologise’

By Tarani Palani | May 16, 2011
Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: Umno president Najib Tun Razak does not need to apologise for the latest “Christian Malaysia” report by the party’s mouthpiece, Utusan Malaysia, says political analyst Farish Noor.

Rather it is Utusan’s editor-in-chief Aziz Ishak and other editors who should be held responsible for the report.

“If one day, Utusan starts a rumour that ‘aliens are landing in Malaysia’, would Najib have to apologise for that as well”? he told FMT, adding that although Najib was the party president, the onus cannot always fall on him.

“While Najib is the prime minister and Utusan is said to be Umno’s mouthpiece, Najib is not the editor of the paper. Any apology for any perceived slight should come from those directly responsible (for the article),” he said.

“Unless you can prove conclusively (that Najib said) ‘I want this article to be written specifically in this manner’,” said Farish, who is senior fellow at Singapore’s S Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Former Utusan senior journalist Hata Wahari told FMT, earlier this week, that top Umno leaders held weekly meetings to set the agenda for the daily.

According to Hata, Najib and deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin also attended the meetings where it was decided that the paper will run an issue for three days before dropping it completely.

General tone

However, Farish said that the meetings could be more or less to set the general tone of an issue instead of the specific details of an article.

He drew a parallel with Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-American Media tycoon who owns several media companies.

“Even in a media company owned by Murdoch, the final editorial control goes to the editor. Murdoch may say, ‘I don’t like you raising certain issues’… but the ultimate responsibility goes to the editor on the ground,” he said.

When asked to comment on the outcome of Najib’s meeting with the Christian leaders last Thursday, Farish said that it would be unfair to comment as he was not there and did not know the details of the meeting.

Najib met the Christian leaders to discuss the matter. He, however, did not offer an apology to the community but instead said that the Christian leaders had given a pledge to respect Islam as the official religion.

Farish said that the Utusan report only revealed that there were different pockets of political power instead of merely the “Number One” person.

To buttress his contention that it would be irrational for Najib to apologise, Farish cited Harakah (PAS’ mouthpiece) and Rocket (DAP’s official organ):

“Say, Harakah makes a completely wrong claim. Does Nik Aziz Nik Mat (PAS spiritual leader ) have to apologise? Or if Rocket carries a false report that the ‘government has sold Johor to Singapore’, does Lim Kit Siang (DAP adviser) has to apologise?”

‘Taiko’ mentality

Farish said that the mentality that the “Number One” should apologise or held accountable would merely perpetuate the “taiko” mentality in Malaysian politics when one should be encouraging pluralism, where there are many pockets of power instead.

“We should have intelligent discussion on the matter rather than running to Number One all the time,” he said.

Farish also said that as a political scientist he had given up trying to understand Utusan’s objectives as there seemed to be no “rhyme or reason” to their “completely irrational political behaviour”.

“A newspaper, besides its editorial, should be run as a business (concern) as well. If it shows that the dissemination of sensational news increases their sales, then perhaps that is a different case. But Utusan’s circulation has been dropping which clearly shows that its kind of news (touching on sensitive matters) is making more losses,” he said.

He drew comparison between the daily’s depleting sales and selling frog meat burgers.

“If you are selling frog meat burgers and it is clearly not selling, then why would you keep selling it? It completely baffles me.”

Utusan Malaysia’s circulation figures are steadily declining and the paper has reportedly been suffering losses of up to RM20 million since 2009. Figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation showed that the paper’s daily sales have shrank 20% between June 2006 and June 2010.

The so-called “Christian plot” made headlines in Utusan Malaysia which claimed that the DAP government in Penang, together with Christian leaders, was conspiring to replace Islam as the official religion and to install a Christian prime minister. The Utusan report was based on two blog posts. Both the DAP and the Christian leaders have denied this.

Police are currently investigating the matter. The home ministry also announced last Thursday that Utusan has been given a warning over the article, a move some said was too light a punishment.

  1. #1 by negarawan on Monday, 16 May 2011 - 11:39 am

    The whole reason UMNO is carrying out all the smear campaign against its opponents and detractors is not to be apologetic in the first place. So, don’t expect any apology from Najib but more filth.

  2. #2 by wanderer on Monday, 16 May 2011 - 12:55 pm

    The bottom line is, we cannot touch the “untouchables” it is like trying to reach the unreachable sky!…unless, you remove these
    deranged low beings from Putrajaya.

  3. #3 by dagen on Monday, 16 May 2011 - 1:07 pm

    Agree with farish’s view but only in the limited sense he expressed. Yes it was utusan right from the begining who decided to take off tangentially. And for that jib was in the clear. It has nothing to do with jib (well, giving jib the benefit of doubt that jib did not orchastrate the report in the first place).

    However what jib did subsequent to the report, i.e. in supporting utusan; and in conveying to the public all the wrong signals which have the result of bringing unfair and ridiculous and even dangerous effects to bear upon the church, was unforgiveable, outright wrong and completely irresponsible. Jib ought to have resigned for having behaved and reacted so so very badly. Demanding jib’s apology is lenient, to my mind.

You must be logged in to post a comment.