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Utusan, respect NUJ president’s rights

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Mustafa K Anuar and Anil Netto have called upon Utusan’s management not to resort to punitive action against the NUJ president for daring to speak up as would be expected of a union leader with a conscience.

National Union of Journalists president Hata Wahari – Image courtesy of nuj-nysp.blogspot.com

We commend the courageous and conscientious stand taken by National Union of Journalists president Hata Wahari in his recent remark pertaining to the deplorable state of media freedom and depressing journalistic ethics in the country.

His comments were very timely and keeping with the larger interest of media responsibility, accountability, credibility and democracy. An honest appraisal of the sad state of the media was long over-due. Hata Wahari has risen to the occasion with commendable honesty reflecting the highest journalistic ethics.

It is indeed the patriotic responsibility of an NUJ leader to express forthrightly his disturbing concerns about the dangerous erosion in journalistic professionalism in the country, particularly within sections of the mainstream media. His concerns are shared by Malaysians generally who are disappointed and disgusted by the utter lack of ethics and professionalism among certain media practitioners.

If media freedom is one of the cornerstones of democracy, then Hata’s expressed concern should be valued by concerned citizens, civil society groups and the journalistic fraternity. His wake up call to the media is timely and appropriate.

Unfortunately, Hata could be penalised by his employer, Utusan Malaysia, as was the fate of one other brave journalist before him, for having played his part honestly as a responsible NUJ leader. When Hata acted, it was in his capacity as a union official with the backing of 1,300 members. His comments were not uttered as an employee of Utusan Malaysia. As a union official, he has a right to comment and criticise. This is allowed by law.

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We therefore call upon the newspaper’s management not to resort to any punitive action against the NUJ president for daring to speak up and discharge his duty as is expected of an official with a conscience. The right and journalistic thing to do is for the newspaper to respond publicly to Hata’s serious criticisms.

It would be one of the darkest moments of Malaysian journalism if Hata were to face a punishment that could eventually lead to his sacking. This would also be the worst kind of censorship committed by the Utusan Malaysia.

Mustafa K Anuar and Anil Netto are coordinators of Charter 2000 – Aliran, a citizens’ media initiative

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