CIJ: NTV7 should explain editorial restriction

The
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is concerned to learn of an
alleged
self-censorship of Editor’s Time,
a current affairs programme on television station NTV7, which
appeared
to be in reaction to an anonymous text message complaining about the
show.


The former producer of the programme Joshua Wong
Ngee Choong, who resigned on 20 April over this, claimed that the text
message was
forwarded from the Prime Minister’s Department to his superior.

Revealing this at a press conference two days later
explaining his resignation, he said that despite his explanation to the
top
editorial people regarding the allegations in the complaint, rebutting
each
point as baseless, they decided to restrict the programme thus: there
were to
be no discussion of political issues or the coming Hulu Selangor
by-election
whose outcome is crucial for the two contesting rival parties, and no
opposition
politicians as guests.

CIJ finds the chain of events, if true, highly
disturbing.

Firstly, the source of the
self-censorship was not even a
directive but a forwarded anonymous text message; and secondly, it was
allegedly passed on by no less than the Prime Minister’s Department,
seemingly
condoning the content but still making no demands. That such
unceremonious actions
could make the television station succumb into censoring its programme
is
another damning indictment of the state of media independence in this
country
after decades of political ownership and control.

CIJ finds the restrictions highly undemocratic and
unbefitting of a media, one of whose roles is to provide a forum for
public criticism
on issues of concern.
 The media’s credibility
– and survival –
comes from the audience’s trust, which means that the media’s first
loyalty is
to citizens, not its owners.

NTV7’s
attempt to please its political masters, as alleged by Wong, is
fruitless since
the lessons from the 2008 general election showed that an increasing
number of
people are not buying the media propaganda favouring the incumbent
federal
government. The public are more discerning of the information as well
as the
institutions in power, including media.



CIJ
salutes the producer for taking a principled position by resigning in
protest
of this self-censorship. However, we are distressed that it comes at
the cost
of another senior journalist’s job, when he was merely following his
professional dictates. The same station in July last year cancelled a
talk show
after one of the guests rated Najib’s first 100 days in office as
mediocre when
asked by the programme’s producer-host Florence Looi. Looi was also
given a
show-cause letter and later re-assigned to field reporting.


CIJ would
like to seek clarification from Dato’ Ahmad Abd Talib, the Executive
Director
of News and Editorial Operations, on this matter as the public's right
to
information and the credibility of NTV7 are at stake. If unaddressed,
this will
serve as an embarrassing reminder of the state of the Malaysian media,
just in
time for World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.

Ends

Issued by

Yip Wai Fong
Communication and Publications Officer

The Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ) is a
non-profit
organisation that aspires for a society that is democratic, just and
free where all people will enjoy free media and the freedom to express,
seek, and impart information.