Charter 2000-Aliran is deeply troubled by the reported resignation of ntv7 senior producer of ‘Editor’s Time’, Joshua Wong, over what he considered to be excessive self-censorship and unwanted government interference in the station’s editorial independence.
We salute Wong for his resolute and unwavering stand on journalistic independence and professional integrity. At the same time, we are appalled by the continuing onslaught on freedom of expression. This is contrary to the BN government’s claim that it has championed press freedom. In fact, Wong’s disclosure has demolished and has made a mockery of this BN claim.
In a public statement after his resignation, Wong said that the TV station management, after receiving complaints from the Prime Minister’s Department and via the Prime Minister’s wife Rosmah Mansor, had stifled his ‘Editor’s Time’ show. Discussion of political issues and invitations to Pakatan Rakyat politicians to analyse the New Economic Model and talk about the impending Hulu Selangor by-election were apparently disallowed. Wong even claimed that Rosmah had submitted a complaint ‘all the way from Washington’ when Najib was there to meet up with President Obama.
This perhaps partly explains why ntv7’s coverage of the Hulu Selangor by-election campaign of late appears to devote so much time to the BN, unlike previously when the station provided some space for Pakatan.
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The media cannot be socially responsible, free and vibrant if they are constantly subjected to the whims and fancies of the powers-that-be.
It does not augur well for the Najib administration, which professes and promises meaningful reforms for the country, when media freedom is still shackled not only by his own administration but also, if the allegation is true, by a member of his family.
This troubling episode confirms the danger to free expresion when media ownership is heavily concentrated in the hands of a few, in this case Media Prima, which is closely associated with the ruling party.
Until we see a change of heart by the government, we hope more Wongs will step forward and defend media freedom. Change can only come when brave individuals make a stand.
Dr Mustafa K Anuar and Anil Netto
23 April 2010