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(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): DAP considers the 2-week suspension of Guang Ming as too harsh when Guang Ming had made an honest mistake in publishing not a photo but a “photo within a photo” of a person reading a newspaper that published the cartoon of the Holy Prophet Mohamed. A retraction and front-page apology should be sufficient punishment when there was no intention by Gaung Ming to insult the holy prophet.
Such suspension would be seen as a blow to press freedom and a warning to other newspapers that similar action can be taken against them if they commit the slightest mistake. On the other hand Deputy Ministers such as the former Deputy Internal Security Minister was allowed to apologise and need not be suspended for telling foreigners to go home if they think Malaysian police are cruel. Why should there be double-standards when papers get punished severely for an honest mistake but not Deputy Minister who are allowed to escape unpunished by merely apologizing?
DAP National Labour Bureau chief A. Sivanesan would lodge a police report against new Information Minister Datuk Zainudin Maidin in Brickfields police station tomorrow noon Sunday for his false allegations, threats and lies against Tamil newspapers.
Datuk Zainuddin Maidin’s promotion as Information Minister is a step backwards for press freedom and freedom of information in Malaysia. Zainuddin holds extremist views as shown by his unhappiness with vernacular papers reporting on the nude ear squat issue, expose of human rights and corruption.
Recently he was criticized by New Straits Times Holdings Deputy Chair Kalimullah Hassan for wanting to sack the top editors of the New Straits Times Group in a closed-door Umno information bureau meeting a day before his appointment as a Minister. Clearly, Zainuddin is a known opponent of press freedom and a proponent of restrictive laws that violates basic human rights such as Printing Presses & Publications Act and the Sedition Act.
Zainuddin sees his role as to ensure that newspapers function as the government mouthpiece with no room for differing views. His latest performance attacking the Tamil newspapers for being irresponsible by lying that RTM forced female Tamil Newscasters to wear baju kebaya.
Zainuddin claimed that the report was not true and it was very dangerous because it could cause dissatisfaction among the Indian community. He added that RTM only asked for the cooperation of the newscasters to wear the baju kebaya.
I have shown evidence that such a directive was indeed issued by RTM to female Tamil newscasters. In a duty roster issued by RTM Penerbit Rancangan B41 Sumathy Vadiappan to all Tamil newcasters for the period from 1-15 February 2006, the female newscasters Rohiny and Latha were required to wear baju kebaya on 6.2.2006 and 14.2.2006 respectively, which they complied.
Clearly Zainuddin and not the Tamil newspapers are lying. RTM did force TV2’s Tamil female newscasters to wear baju kebaya when reading the nightly Tamil news. It is also clear that Tamil newspapers were behaving responsibly by reporting the truth. Instead it is Zainuddin who is behaving irresponsibly by lying as I have been informed that this directive on female Tamil newscasters to wear baju kebaya was issued by RTM early this month.
DAP does not oppose non-Malays who choose to wear the lovely baju kebaya as many Chinese women wear this beautiful dress. However this choice must be decided freely by women and not compelled upon them. If Malaysia can object to France and Singapore for refusing to allow female students to wear the tudong in school as a violation of their religious and cultural rights, why does Malaysia fail to practice what it preach. RTM should allow female newscasters the right to choose their form of dress so long as it is not obscene.
DAP regrets the refusal Datuk Zainudin Maidin to make a good start as Information Minister by apologising and withdrawing his unfair remarks against Tamil newspapers when they were not lying and making responsible reporting. Any failure to do so would show that there is no justice and fairplay when newspapers will be punished for making mistakes but not Ministers.
Such lies and threats against Tamil newspapers are a threat to press freedom and shows that the real reason why the government retains oppressive laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Sedition Act is to prevent truth from being published. Zainuddin should prove that he is not an extremist but tolerant of cultural rights and freedom by rescinding the directive forcing female Tamil newscasters to wear the baju kebaya.