NUJ chief: Shut down Utusan Malaysia

Susan Loone | May 22, 11

National Union of Journalists chief and sacked Utusan Malaysia reporter Hata Wahari has called for his former employer to be shut down and its editors left to suffer for publishing a religiously charged article earlier this month.

Hata, who was in Penang for a forum on press freedom organised by the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), said this was the only way to make its editors and reporters take responsibility for the unsubtantiated front page article on May 7, and the following ruckus across the nation that ensued.

He added that there were existing laws like the Sedition Act and the Printing Presses and Publication Act, which could be wielded on Utusan.

This would show that the government was not practising ‘double standards’ when dealing with an errant newspaper, he added.

Hata said the editor-in-chief of the Umno-owned newspaper could have said ‘no’ to their political masters bidding to play up this potentially explosive religious issue., which alleged that the DAP was plotting with a group of pastors in Penang to install a Christian prime minister.

The duo were also accused of planning to call for the amendment of the Federal Constitution to install Christianity as the offical religion of the federation.

Based on postings from two pro-Umno bloggers, the controversial article which attracted more than 20 police reports across the country, has been refuted and condemned.

Feel the pain

“In order to make the paper responsible, something must be done to the editors and reporters…similar as what happened to The Star, Sinchew Daily and Watan during Ops Lallang in 1987,” he said, in the forum titled ‘Media and Ethnicity: Overcoming the Challenges’.

“When they feel the pain of how others felt (during the time of shutdown), they might think two or three times to publish what they did…we must at least shut them down for once,” he added.

Hata said the Utusan had never before embarked on a religious controversy of this scale, but focussed more on ‘Malay’ issues since the 1960s.

He added that the paper was indeed ‘racist and fanatic’ over Malay issues but never Islam, and it was bent on highlighting them in all sectors, be it the social, economic or political.

“It was a surprise for me and I felt strange they had started to play on religious issues…I can bet you the previous editors-in-chief would not had allowed this to happen,” he said.

He conceded that Utusan was a ‘closed’ organisation, in that it would never accept any external opinion or influence which is different from its stand, except those that came from its political masters, Umno.

“Whatever we say or whoever says it, the editors in there will not listen…so the best thing to do is shut it down!” he urged, in his brief presentation.

When asked how he survived 16 years in the newspaper, before being sacked for criticising his bosses, Hata explained in a roundabout way that he mostly practised self-censorship to survive.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 4:08 pm

    I am against any forced shutdown of Utusan BUT all govt and GLC should stop advertising and subscription. Utusan deserved to be closed and its not salvageable.

    But then there are quite a few other institutions such as MACC, BTN, Rela,

  2. #2 by sotong on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 4:15 pm

    When you put something so irresponsible and dangerous on the front page, you should apologise and immediately resign.

    The newspaper should be shut down for good to prevent further harm it may cause to the country……anything less, is totally unacceptable!

  3. #3 by Not spoon fed on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 4:16 pm

    Everyone to vote for Pakatan and let Pakatan be the new tenant of Putrajaya and be the Federal Government.

    Then, investigate those corruption of UMNO and its allies including MCA and MIC.

    Then, get those corrupted be into jail.

    Then have judgement on Utusan and no more subcription of this paper in all government departments and agencies.

    Let them enjoy now.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 5:25 pm

    UM cannot be shut down as it has powerful backers within UMNO. Even the PM can’t do it. It has been the Malay voice since time immemorial. It has served UMNO’s raison de etre of communal politics. Since 308 there are those within UMNO who feel that the time has come to move on beyond strident race rhetoric. They feel the younger urban and net savvy voters including Malays won’t take to race baiting. KJ for eg has toned down UMNO youth; so is Najib with his more inclusive 1 Malaysia. Unfortunately these don’t however represent the rest. The fear of losing vested interest through UMNO losing primal position grounded on Ketuanan cause the other group to rachet up race rhetoric, and not religion as well since its inextricably part of Malay cultural identity. This where Utusan & Perkasa play counterweight role in favour of conservative reactionary faction against the more liberal and inclusive inclined faction of UMNO (we don’t know how many of them for they keep quiet on sidelines) and serve the purpose of intra UMNO power rivalry.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 5:32 pm

    It is a conflict of 2 viewpoints: (i) the more liberal & inclusive left of centre thinking that’s the way to go for longer term power maintenance on UMNO’s part, the other, (ii) the old right of centre even more Ketuanan way, where the costs of alienating Non malay especially Chinese votes in next GE or others have been factored in, accepted and discounted.

    This latter faction believes Malay votes alone buttressed by constitutionally favoured gerrymandering are sufficient to ensure perpetual UMNO dominance – whatever the consequences & regardless of the traditional deference to maintaining at least the façade of multiracial government. As long as this faction and the political patrons remain powerful vis-a-vis the other faction, UM’s position is untouchable.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 5:34 pm

    Caught in the cross-fire of intra-UMNO political maneuverings/rivalry – and hemorrhaging profusely in collateral damage – are MCA, & Gerakan. They can’t maintain the charade of being a worthy partners representing their Non malay constituency’s interest. MCA for eg is seen doubly powerless/impotent where Perkasa could demonstrate in front of its doorstep, with its call to take action against UM’s “1Melayu, 1Bumi” (that contradicts the numero ono’s 1 Malaysia) – unheeded!

    To be electorally relevant it has to more than ever piggy-back on Umno that does not respect it. (Certain quarters may even respect DAP more). Yet MCA is caught in this bind because of UMNO’s actions through the years of chest-beating its constituency for the benefit of its own power base without caring a hoot of MCA’s or Gerakan’s loss of its own….

  7. #7 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 5:37 pm

    Rectiying typo omission in #4- “…rachet up race rhetoric, and NOW religion as well…”

  8. #8 by monsterball on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 6:33 pm

    I know Utusan is loosing readers everyday.
    I think Utusan is doing a good job for PR without knowing it.
    I think Utusan is low class paper.
    Why want it to be banned?
    What are we afraid of?
    Let them talk and we talk back…and leave it to voters to judge.
    Classic example…Najib and Mamak talked so much.
    Did they convince more voters to support BN….especially UMNO B?
    If so….why is Najib not announcing the 13th GE now?

  9. #9 by cemerlang on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 10:48 pm

    When the Barisan Nasional ever becomes the Opposition, then the Utusan Malaysia would become their newspaper which would be questioned ever so often. It would be good to know what your enemies are thinking.

  10. #10 by tak tahan on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 11:24 pm

    Then monsterball will be more placid freedom brouhaha..but a good moderate fighter.

  11. #11 by wanderer on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 11:46 pm

    No, don’t ban this rubbish UMNO paper, they are the “vote getter” for PR. By all means bankrupt this below par news company… by not supporting them.

  12. #12 by dagen on Monday, 23 May 2011 - 8:40 am

    I suppose the moderator here can feel a little less uptight now. Nazri guarantees everyone’s freedom to speak. So people, lets get on with it.

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