The sixth premiership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak has achieved another “first” – two self-inflicted “black eyes” on the Ides of March, 15th March 2016.
On this Ides of March, Malaysia became international news for a double event – the arrest and deportation of two Australian journalists from ABC “Four Corners” and the closure of the Internet news portal, The Malaysian Insider, as a result of government harassment against independent journalism and violation of the 20-year Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Bill of Guarantees of “No Internet Censorship”.
Malaysia was the subject of international news for these two events – not to Malaysia’s credit, but only to the national detriment in further undermining a plunging international reputation and image.
A sample of the adverse international reporting of the Malaysia’s first self-inflicted “black eye” on the arrest and deportation of the two ABC Australian journalists is as follows:
• ABC Four Corners crew detained in Malaysia (Sydney Morning Herald) March 13, 2016.
• ABC reporters detained in Malaysia (Sky News, Australia) March 13, 2016.
• Australian journalists detained in Malaysia for trying to question PM (Gulf Today, UAE) March 13, 2016.
• Julie Bishop says ABC Four Corners journalists who questioned Najib Razak are being helped (Daily Mail, UK) March 13, 2016.
• 2 Aussie journos held for trying to question Malaysian PM: report (The Manila Times) March 13, 2016
• Australian government raises concerns over detained journalists in Malaysia (Deutsche Welle) March 13, 2016.
• Australia ‘concerned’ over detention of journalists in Malaysia (The Nation, Thailand) March 14, 2016.
• Australian Journalists Arrested in Malaysia (Voice of America) March 14, 2016.
• Australian Journalists Investigating 1MDB Scandal Arrested in Malaysia (Wall Street Journal) March 14, 2016.
• Australian broadcaster says Malaysia won’t charge (Jakarta Post) March 14, 2016.
• Malaysia to hear out Bishop over charges for Four Corners crew (The Australian) March 14, 2016.
• Australia ‘concerned’ over journalists detained in Malaysia (Japan Today) March 14, 2016.
• Change of heart in Malaysia over Four Corners reporters from Oz (Hong Kong Standard) March 15, 2016
• Malaysian police: detained Australian report will be deported (Times of India) 15.3.2016.
• Australian journalists leave Malaysia after detention (Financial Express, Bangladesh) 2016-03-15
• Malaysia deports Australian reporters for disrupting PM (Anadolu Agency, Turkey) 15.3.2016.
• Australian journalists leave Malaysia after avoiding charges (BBC) 15 March 2016.
• Malaysia backs down hours after threatening to charge ABC journos (SMH) March 14, 2016.
• Malaysia drama ends for ABC 4 Corners pair (Australian) 15 March 2016.
• Four Corners reporter Linton Besser describes frightening detention in Malaysia (ABC) 15 March 2016.
Is this the international publicity Malaysia needs at this time, when the country has been buffeted with one bad news after another for the past two years?
Or a sample of the adverse international publicity for the other self-inflicted “black eye” on the Ides of March this year:
• Malaysian Insider to Close After Government Blocked It Following1MDB Coverage (Wall Street Journal) Mar 14, 2016.
• A news website that reported on the Malaysian prime minister’s alleged corruption is shutting down (Quartz) Mar 14, 2016.
• Malaysian Insider shuts as political pressures add to commercial woes (TODAY online) Mar 14, 20916.
• Independent Malaysian news site closes amid government clampdown on media (Guardian) 15 March 2016.
These are not the international publicity Malaysia needs after a prolonged bout of adverse bad news for Malaysia, starting with the still mysterious disappearance of MH 370 with 239 passengers and crew on board more than two years ago – followed by the shooting down of MH 17 killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board four months later.
Has Malaysia’s international image and reputation not gone South enough in the past two years, and are Malaysians content to see our international reputation to continue travel South and deep like the disappeared MH370?
I have seen the video of the ABC journalist Linton Bresser questioning Prime Minister Najib in Kuching last Saturday which showed that the journalists did not breach any security cordon, as claimed by police.
Bresser, who had joined a group of press photographers who crowded around Najib as he got out of his car to enter a Kota Sentosa mosque, had asked Najib:
“Hello Mr Prime Minister, it’s ABC Australia. I’m wondering if you could explain the hundreds of million in your account?”
Bresser was ignored by Najib who continued walking with a stony face.
“Hello, Mr Prime Minister, can you explain all the hundreds of million of dollars in your account? Mr Prime Minister?” Bresser asked again.
At this point, the police intervened. There was no security cordon as claimed by the police nor did Bresser “aggressively” approached Najib, as claimed by the police.
The video shows that the excuses which have been given by the various Ministers, including the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi and the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin were groundless.
The DAP MP for Batu Kawan, Kasthuri Patto, had asked a most pertinent question – why taking selfies with Prime Minister Najib is okay but asking question is not, why the Prime Minister is busy going to the ground in Sarwak to “meet the people” so that they can shake his hand and take selfies, but when two Australian journalists ask questions about the 1MDB scandal, suddenly it’s considered a crime.
Will Malaysians be arrested for asking Najib questions about the RM55 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion donation twin mega scandals in his walkabouts, especially in the run-up as well as during the Sarawak general elections campaign?
Najib and Malaysia have not come out of the deplorable episode over the two ABC Four Corners journalists pursuing answers on Najib’s 1MDB scandal smelling like a rose.
I call on Najib to present a Ministerial statement in Parliament on what lessons his government has learnt from the international Public Relations misadventure – in fact, a “disaster” – over the arrest and deportation of the two ABC Four Corners journalists and whether Najib is prepared to come full and clean to the teeming questions about his twin mega scandals in the current Parliament, as they are the root cause of his government’s latest PR disaster?