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I quit after complaints from Rosmah, PM’s Dept

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The award winning ntv7 journalist Joshua Wong explains the reason for his shock resignation as producer for the current affairs talk show ‘Editor’s Time’.

I have on 20 April resigned as producer for ntv7’s talk show ‘Editor’s Time’.

I am dissatisfied on the way the company has handled two complaints which came from the Prime Minister’s Department and the First Lady (Rosmah Mansor). The complaints came after the airing the programme’s Kuala Lumpur roadshow (19 March) and Penang roadshow (8 April).

The company, without conducting due investigation, set unreasonable restrictions for the talk show on the issues to be discussed as well as those to be invited as panel speakers.

The restrictions are:

1) The show not allowed to discuss political issues;

2) Opposition leaders cannot be invited to the show, including DAP MP Tony Pua who was to take part on the topic relating to the New Economic Model, and

(3) Ban on the ‘Hulu Selangor by-election’ show, which was originally scheduled for 22 April.

These restrictions are not justifiable. It has threatened the independence of my job as producer. It is also a form of self-censorship, which is against the principal of fair and independent reporting. These restrictions have seriously affected the professionalism of the producing team.

According to my superior, Tan Boon Kooi (ntv7 Mandarin News and Current Affairs executive editor), the first complaint was made on March 19 after the airing of the roadshow in Kuala Lumpur the day before. The complaint came from the Prime Minister’s Department via SMS. This SMS was forwarded to me by email through Lee Siad Huey, the host of ‘Editor’s Time’.

NONEIt said: “Mereka memperlekehkan KPI dan polisi BN. Memperlekehkan ‘1Malaysia’. Mencabar PM agar rombak besar-besaran BTN.

“Mempertikaikan tindakan Dato Nasir Safar (centre of pic) sedangkan Dato Nasir telah berani meletakkan jawatan.

“(Nga) Kor Ming dengan bangganya membangkitkan isu pemberian tanah kepada orang ramai di Perak. Wee Ka Siong gagal pertahankan isu MCA apa lagi nak pertahankan polisi Umno dan BN. Ketua Pemuda MCA set markah 75 kepada PM dalam usaha KPI. Ada usul telus FDI dengan kurangkan kos operasi. Ada usul penilaian KPI oleh rakyat ketua jabatan sahaja.

“Yang sangat bahaya, dia orang minta kebebasan bersuara bermula dengan sesi debat tadi. Makna tiada siasatan perlu dibuat, cara mereka bercakap dan membiarkan penonton bertanya soalan seolah-olah kerajaan kita ini terlalu teruk.

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“Apa lagi Cina-Cina nie nak, mereka lagi kaya dari Melayu. Saya cadang kita perang jer dengan Cina-Cina nie… Melaru kepada semua ahli-ahli parlimen Melayu/Umno/MT dan semua pemimpin Umno, wake up… mereka semakin biadap.”

The SMS came from an anonymous writer, and its contents do not make sense and are full of racial remarks. Without finding out more about it, the company threatened to cease the production and demand for my explanation.

Lee and I had on March 22 written to the company, rebutting each and every accusations, and suggested to the company to make a police report pertaining to the racial remarks stated in the SMS, which was seditious.

However, the company did not take my suggestion seriously. Not only did they not lodge a police report, they have instead ordered that the talk show be prohibited from discussing political issues.

new america one malaysia khairy jamaluddin tony puah forum 040609 01During a meeting on April 2, I suggested Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua (right) to be a guest speaker to talk about the New Economic Model (NEM) scheduled to be aired on April 15. But my direct superior Tan Boon Kooi told me this, “If you invite Tony Pua, then this production will cease.”

He also told me that from now on, no opposition party member can be invited to the talk show. When I pressed further, Tan told me that this was only an advice, not an order, from the News and Current Affairs ntv7, 8tv, tv9 and radio news and Prima Media group editor Manja Ismail. To me, this is a form of self-censorship from the company’s top management.

On April 16, News and Operation ntv7, 8tv and tv9 general manager Sofwan Mahmood ask for a meeting with me and Tan out of the blue. Tan was busy at that time, and I attended the meeting alone. Sofwan asked about the topic for the next show, I told him it would be the Hulu Selangor by-election.

He then said that it was not advisable as the BN had faced a major blow in its selection of the candidate for the by-election, and the show would embarrassed Najib Razak’s administration. He then said he has never interfered in our task as a producer.

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I told him that I would prepare a proposal for his consideration before any decision was made. He did not agree, but neither did he object. And his secretary, Dayang Norshida, asked me to write the proposal.

After that, I met with Tan, and briefed him pertaining to my conversation with Sofwan. Tan said, “Sofwan did not say it clearly. He actually wanted us not to talk about the by-election in the coming show.”

rosmah mansorTan added further, “On Monday, the First Lady (left) complained about your Penang roadshow – all the way from Washington… I hope you will change the topic.”

I later found that the First Lady had received complaints from other people, and she re-directed the complaint to the top management. Tan said the content of the complaint is more or less the same as the complaint received after the airing of the roadshow in Kuala Lumpur.

It is inevitable for Malaysians to discuss the Hulu Selangor by-election. Bear in mind that the original goal and aim of this show is to discuss current issues – the by-election is without doubt an issue that relates to public interest.

As long as the analysis is balanced, objective, and not tilted to one side, I believe that the show can, and will, result in an in-depth and meaningful discussion. We do not need to over-react on a totally unreasonable complaint, or impose such high level of self-censorship and stop discussing about the by-election altogether.

On 19 April, I wrote a proposal to my superior seeking their approval so that the original scheduled show on April 22 can proceed. Lee and other crew members had gone to the constituency to do research and interviews.

On 20 April, at about 2.30pm, Sofwan met me and Tan. At the meeting, Sofwan ordered that the show must not talk about the by-election – the reason given was to “control damage”. As a result, we have to change the topic at the last minute.

I guess what is meant by “control damage” is that we must use this talk show to protect certain parties and their interests, which is totally against the principle of fair reporting and our duty to seek the truth.

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As a producer, I think that the two roadshows reflect a balanced and objective view, and they had obtained the approval from the Censorship Board. There is no reason for the company and the top management to impose such high levels of self-censorship and restrictions.

I refused to compromise, and I refuse to execute the company’s order.

I think as a media practitioner, we should express our opinion and our stand without fear or favour. This is to protect the independence and professionalism of journalists. If we continue to keep silence, our silence will allow political interference, unreasonable self-censorship, and worse still, we will allow all sorts of racial remarks from all sorts of people.

Racial politics and news self-censorship had been with us for more than 50 years. How can we continue to keep silence, to tolerate such a situation and allow this to happen again and again?

Editor’s Time

Editor’s Time is a new TV programme in ntv7 and focuses on discussion of current issues. It is a one hour live show and it was launched April 1 for the 11pm to 12pm time-slot every Thursday.

Editor’s Time had organised two roadshows – at KL Chinese Assembly Hall on Feb 8 and Penang Chinese Assembly Hall on March 13 respectively. Both roadshows were recorded and aired on 18 March and 8 April.

The topic discussed in the KL roadshow was ‘Key Performance Indicator – who performs better? BN or PR?’

The show was hosted by Lee Siad Huey, ntv7’s Mandarin news presenter. The speakers for the KL roadshow were:

1. Dr Wee Ka Siong, deputy education minister

2. Nga Kor Ming, Taiping MP from DAP

3. Josh Hong, political analyst/commentator

4. Tan Ah Chai, CEO of KL Chinese Assembly Hall

The topic for Penang roadshow was ‘Key Performance Indicator – Two years after 308, is Penang getting better?” The four speakers were:

1. Liew Chin Tong, Bukit Bendera MP from DAP

2. Teng Chang Yeow, Gerakan secretary-general

3. Wong Chin Huat, political researcher

4. Hu Jin Chang, Kwong Wah Daily editor-in-chief

JOSHUA WONG NGEE CHOONG is former producer of ntv7’s talk show ‘Editor’s Time’. This piece first appeared in Malaysiakini.com

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