The BBC in London has issued a statement saying it is urgently seeking explanations over the apparent doctoring of one of its news reports by the Malaysian satellite broadcaster Astro.
A copy of the allegedly censored report has been circulated widely on You Tube since the weekend, showing how what was broadcast to viewers on Astro differed from the original version that was shown elsewhere in the world.
The established BBC reporter Emily Buchanan had produced a two minute report on the Bersih rally, detailing the days events. This was included in bulletins offered by BBC World, one of the Channels carried by Astro.
However, thirty seconds appears to have been cut out of the doctored version on Astro, after the removal of three separate sequences, one of which showed a policeman on a motorbike apparently firing at demonstrators.
The two other sequences that were removed included interviews with demonstrators, explaining why they felt they had to take to the streets to defend the right to fair elections.
Deplorable during the week of World Press Freedom Day!
After Sarawak Report notified the BBC about what had happened yesterday the Corporation responded with a strongly worded statement signalling apparent outrage.
It is an established rule that none of its reports should be tampered with or doctored by channels carrying its News Service and the statement makes plain that this is a potentially deeply serious breach of its contract with Astro:
“The BBC is carrying out urgent enquiries after it was made aware that output from its BBC World News channel may have been censored in Malaysia.
The broadcast of anti-Government protests in Malaysia was apparently edited before it was re-broadcast on Malaysian satellite television, with sequences removed from the original BBC version.
The BBC is making urgent enquiries to the Malaysian operator, Astro, to establish the facts.
A BBC spokesman said: “During the week of World Press Freedom Day, it would be deplorable if access to independent and impartial news was being prevented in any way. We would strongly condemn any blocking of the trusted news that we broadcast around the world including via distribution partners.”
The BBC is believed to still be awaiting a full explanation from Astro as to what could possibly have happened during this case.
The company is apparently taking some time to respond to the urgent questions that have been put and it is believed that there may be further delay over the public holiday.
However, the quality of the editing of the package would indicate that this was indeed a professional and carefully executed attempt to put the authorities in Malaysia in a better light. If so, the exposure of such manipulation is likely to seriously backfire on both the reputation of Astro and international standing of BN.
Al Jazeera’s reports ‘also tampered with’ by Astro!
Astro, the only satellite channel to be licensed by the BN Government is owned by one of the country’s richest entrepreneurs, Ananda Krishnan, known for his close links with the ruling UMNO party.
Astro dishes have even been offered as a free incentive to some longhouses in Sarawak in the run up to the federal elections, presumably in an attempt to both curry favour and to influence their thinking in favour of the government.
The doctoring of the BBC’s report would appear to show just how biased and subservient Astro is to UMNO’s political agenda.
And in the past hours more information has started to emerge that the channel carried out a similar tampering exercise with the Al Jazeera report on the march by the reporter Harry Fawcett!
Time for more democracy and press freedom?
As the BBC pointed out in its statement, Astro channel’s sneaky censoring of these objective news reports came at the very start of the week of World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd.
The action provides a neat example of just the sort of anti-democratic cheating and abuse of power that brought so many thousands onto the streets of KL in the first place on Saturday.
The Bersih movement has started to wake up the rest of the world to the fact that Malaysia’s expensively crafted image as a friendly and democratic country under BN is in fact a PR sham.
What could have better summed up the autocratic and illegal tendencies of BN than this sanctioning of Astro’s censorship against two of the world’s most respected broadcasters, which were trying to bring viewers an objective account of this event.
What better vindication for Bersih and its call for a cleaner Malaysia!