Nowhere Else In The World Do We Find Censorship Like This! – Al Jazeera Condemns Malaysia EXCLUSIVE

Nowhere Else In The World Do We Find Censorship Like This! – Al Jazeera Condemns Malaysia EXCLUSIVE

2 May 2012

This post is also available in: Iban, Malay

Al Jazeera - appalled at censorship!

The Middle East’s leading TV News Service, Al Jazeera, has given its own appalled reaction to the discovery that its coverage of Saturday’s Bersih 3.0 rally may have also have been doctored by Malaysia’s Astro satellite station.

In an uncompromising statement a spokesman today declared:

“We have not been censored in this way by another distribution platform anywhere in the world.”

The statement has added to the growing international outrage over Malaysia’s authoritarian censorship rules, in a country that poses as a democracy.

The BBC, who discovered its own report of the day’s events was covertly edited, has launched its own legal and editorial enquiry into the incident and is said to be taking the matter “extremely seriously indeed”, according to one insider.

Cover up

Menaced by police - Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett speaking to camera shortly before his equipment was smashed

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera meanwhile, now has reason to believe that its extensive coverage of the Bersih rally was also interfered with.

The station had sent it’s English language reporter Harry Fawcett onto the ground in KL, covering the rally and providing on the spot interviews.

Much of his material was dramatic and showed a number of cases of excessive use of force by the police against demonstrators.

As he spoke to camera, police officers could be seen hovering at the reporter’s shoulder and eventually he reported that they smashed his equipment to the ground – one of several attacks reported against news crews by police.

Fawcett’s report had concluded on an even handed note, suggesting that both sides had matters to regret over the direction of events.  Yet the station is believed to have received information from a number of sources that Astro censored its coverage.

Today Al Jazeera’s English Spokesman released this official statement:

“We will be asking Astro for an explanation as to why Harry Fawcett’s report of the rally in Malaysia was apparently censored. If Astro are indeed saying that it breached “local content regulations”, they would need to outline exactly what these alleged breaches were and how they arrived at their decision.

“As we understand it, the censoring was not made clear to viewers when it happened. We have had no communication on this incident from Astro either.

“Our news report was a factual account of events that day, and intrusion in our editorial process is unwarranted. We have not been censored in this way by another distribution platform anywhere in the world.”

What breaches?

Exclusive licence for Astro in Malaysia

Al Jazeera’s accusation that Malaysia’s censorship system is the most authoritarian they have experienced anywhere in the world is a particularly stinging indictment of a regime that has spent hundreds of millions on cultivating its international image.

In fact it has long been the case that only pro-government organisations ever qualify for print or media licences in Malaysia and that these all slavishly adopt a pro-government stance on each and every issue.

Astro itself is run by the pro-BN crony billionaire Ananda Krishnan and it has been given exclusive rights by the government to act as the sole platform carrying 24 hour news channels, like the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera to viewers in Malaysia.

In its own defence Astro this week admitted that it is only allowed to operate in accordance with “National Content Regulations”, which media organisations are supposed to put into practice through ‘self-censorship’.

The Al Jazeera statement demands to know what these content regulations consist of and how breaches are assessed?  The station is clearly particularly outraged at Astro’s opinion that it is entitled to censor news reports without even informing either the news channel or viewers! [see Astro statement].

“News Control”

Sarawak Report can now reveal for the first time just how the sinister and arbitrary system of TV News censorship works at Astro.  Sources have revealed that the satellite station employs people round the clock under the job title “News Control”.

Astro’s “News Controllers” have the editorial responsibility of scouring all the news coming in and demanding edits on anything they judge to be contrary to the Home Ministry censorship rules!

“They do four hour shifts, monitoring news output particularly from CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera, and deciding if anything is not to go to air”, explained our source.

For reputable broadcasters like Al Jazeera, this means that objective reports can be turned into biased reports, but that Malaysian viewers are given the deliberate impression that this was the actual voice of the international news station.

If the BBC and Al Jazeera have knowingly entered into commercial agreements that permitted such tampering the reputational issues could be highly damaging.

However, it is most likely that it is Malaysia’s secretive authoritarianism that has been at last fully exposed by this shameful incident.

Harry Fawcett tweeting today about his outrage over his treatment at the Bersih rally and the censorship of his report

Today the British MP Tom Greatrex, a member of the All-party Parliamentary Group on Malaysia made his own statement deploring the tampering of BBC News by Malaysia:

“Freedom of expression is a vital element of any democracy.

For people all across the globe, the BBC World Service is a vital lifeline in the search for truth.

William Hague [Foreign Secretary] must make it clear in no uncertain terms to the Malaysian government that it is entirely unacceptable to censor the BBC.”

Content regulation

Weighty document - so many things are censored, but it comes down to one main thing. Don't allow anything the BN government might not like!

Sarawak Report has been unable to reach Astro Channel’s communications officers today.

We have been requesting both a copy of the National Content Regulations which they are forced to abide by and to learn exactly what their criteria for censoring material is.

Censorship is regarded as an extremely serious issue in most countries.

However, documents that we have obtained showing the Home Ministry’s rules on Film Censorship, give the impression that in Malaysia the restrictions are wide-ranging and arbitrary and apply to anything that might be construed as undesirable by the ruling political regime!

The first main category of 4 areas of censorship outlined by the Government refers to ‘matters of security and public order’.

The list of offences makes clear that anything that criticises or shows the government or its agents in a bad light is to be censored.  Under such a heading bad behaviour by police officers during the Bersih rally would certainly be included!

Nothing that contradicts the policies of the government should be allowed!

Nothing that shows the government or its agents in a bad light either!

Under such rules it is plain that censorship should apply to anything that reveals corruption, illegality, stupidity or misbehaviour on the part of the BN government or anyone working for it.

It is clear that Malaysia, which poses as a democracy, has censorship laws that would befit the most authoritarian and dictatorial states in the world!

Should Al Jazeera and the BBC and CNN be allowing their news broadcasts to pass through such 3rd party censorship without them even being told when these rules have been applied?

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  • JP

    The bright side of this news is that now the public and the world would know how democratic Malaysia really is. Now I only wish those pro-BN idiots would stop sleeping and realize that our country needs reformation and the dictators in government begone.

  • darkscorpio

    Well of course they were going to censor it, what the police did can certainly be categorised as “excessive violence and cruelty”.

  • Pingback: Astro Malaysia VS Al-Jazeera (Bersih Rally)? | Berita Semasa()

  • Tammy

    When l read this report, all the beatings l had in Bersih 3 is really worth it.

    So far there has never been any match for the brute and arrogant Regime.

    Looks like they finally found their match.

    Let move on till the Endgame


  • RealMalaysia

    The Malaysian media and as a result life in general, has been controlled since independence by a mixture of carrot (bribes) and stick (loss of livelihood or imprisonment without trial).

    As a result the average person in Malaysia is afraid to stand up and be counted as they never know what the impact will be on already difficult lives. Therefore the courage of those who do stand up for what they believe should not be under estimated.

    Typically retribution for perceived misdeeds against the ruling party is surreptitiously implemented months later, when the “offenders” boss will be quietly “advised” that it will be better not to employ the offender and word will be put around his industry that he should be considered persona non grata. The effects are devastating for those targeted. As a result most people keep in line and even the rebels tread very carefully.

    This control is particularly exercised in the public sector (which is a massive employer in Malaysia) but also in private sectors such as the media by the threat of revoking licenses. This together with bribes to editors and key reporters ensures that “self-censoring” by the media is the norm. Of course big media players such as Astro and the New Straits Times newspaper are ultimately owned by the elite and so slavishly toe the line, however ridiculous it may be to the objective observer.

    The ruling politicians and their crony “nominees” (who receive lop-sided contracts and largess from the government which they share with their politician benefactor), voraciously usurp every opportunity to make money in the country. There is neither integrity nor any remorse for the devastating impact these massive thefts of the country’s wealth have on the people of Malaysia.

    Additionally, destruction of the rainforest and marine resources have a huge international fall out as does the carefully masked over exploitation of oil, gas, minerals and any other resource that can be grabbed. Whatever the resource, the real profits are channelled through the ruling elite and in the case of oil and gas kept as a state secret so as to avoid inconvenient truths.

    By rendering the Malaysia people impotent and frustrated, the country will morph into an increasingly unstable regional component as its resources and the potential of its human capital are squandered. With the global strategic importance the South China Sea will assume during the next few decades, Malaysia’s deep rooted decay should be of critical concern to international governments and media.

    The endemic and unbelievable Machiavellian corruption in Malaysia severely limits the livelihoods of most people. The favoured “elite” skim off 30-50% of every single dollar spent by the government. In any event much of this spending has been conceived to provide opportunities for corruption rather than to address the real needs of the people, so the real losses to the country are massive and unsustainable.

    What remains, is just enough for the average person to survive and continue to function as an unwitting Orwellian drone in the work-house commonly known as Malaysia. Already intentionally vulnerable, anyone who is perceived to step out of line will have whatever is left of their livelihood destroyed.

    To an uninformed international reader, much of what is mentioned on Sarawak report may seem parochial, but the international community including main stream media and governments must realise that Malaysia’s image to the world is a carefully crafted mirage and that the underlying rot IS of critical importance to the world.

    The dawn of the internet age is removing Malaysia’s carefully crafted layers of obfuscation, like the layers of a stinking onion, rotten to its very core. Now that the few shiny outer layers have been peeled back the international community should weep at what is being revealed.

    What is happening in Malaysia is insidious and far reaching with national, regional and international impact that is far worse than initially meets the eye. Nothing is at it seems in Malaysia and everything that matters is a carefully constructed lie.

    WORLD – it is now time to wake up, take notice of what is happening in Malaysia, continuously bring it to the attention of the international public in a way that can be understood and take action to support change.

  • bill

    i can see clearly where the emotions of the average man in the street lie, and i can agree with the principals of the Bersih 3.0 rally, BUT the unfortunate truth is that the demonstrators did exactly what the government wanted and that was to tear down the barriers and commit other acts that were labelled VIOLENT.

    the outcome was that the rally orginisers were easy targets to paint in a very bad light.

    censorship has existed in every country in the world virtually since the emergence of the newspaper and will continue long after we are dead and gone.

    peacefull demonstration means just that. it does NOT mean to retaliate … no matter what the provocation