KUALA LUMPUR, 24 Oct 2008: Writers and media organisations should not exploit press freedom to send out messages that incite hatred and violence, panellists at a DAP-organised forum said last night.
They said the media must be responsible and held accountable for their reports.
Citing the controversial short story Politik Baru YB J, in which the protagonist politician is shot dead, they said action must be taken against the author and Mingguan Malaysia which published the story.
Many view the story as an allegory of DAP’s Member of Parliament (MP) for Seputeh, Teresa Kok, because of the similarities between the story and events in Kok’s political life.
The panellists at the 23 Oct forum said the newspaper, which is the Sunday edition of Utusan Malaysia, and author Datuk Chamil Wariya were inciting hatred and promoting violence.
Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom said the government’s lack of action against the paper demonstrated hypocrisy because the law was not being applied equally.
Citing the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) and the Internal Security Act (ISA), Azmi said: “They can stop the publication. They have used these laws on some people before but not on certain people.”
He said Chamil’s cerpen could be deemed as intimidation. “It’s a crime but no laws or action has been taken against the writer,” Azmi said.
Seasoned journalist Wan Hamidi Hamid agreed that action should be taken against the newspaper.
He said it was wrong for Chamil to use the pretext of creative writing to incite hatred and promote violence. “All over the world, press freedom does not incite hatred or violence,” he said.
Wan Hamidi said news reporting must be fair, and urged everyone to continue to call for the repeal of the ISA and the PPPA.
Human rights lawyer and blogger Haris Ibrahim said: “We cannot claim to have press freedom if Utusan did not give Kok a platform to reply.”
He also said he found five distinguishing facts in Chamil’s short story that were similar to Kok’s life, and yet no action was taken against the newspaper.
Pakatan Rakyat launching its boycott against Utusan MalaysiaChamil, however, has denied that the story was based on Kok.
Haris said he would defend Chamil’s right to be creative but the author could do so by publishing his own book instead of abusing the media.
DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang said the newspaper had descended to the level of “hate journalism” by publishing the short story.
He also said he found at least 10 resemblances to Kok in Chamil’s story but it was unfortunate the government had remained silent on the matter.
“This is not going to promote press freedom,” he said.
Also present at the forum were Kok and PAS MP for Shah Alam Khalid Abdul Samad.
After the forum, DAP, on behalf of the Pakatan Rakyat, launched a boycott against Utusan group of newspapers.
Kok has filed a suit against the newspaper and Chamil.