(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): I have sent an official complaint to the Bernama Board of Governors asking them to cause an investigation by the Bernama Supervisory Council over the Bernama coverage of IMF reports as misleading, irresponsible and dishonest,.
Bernama had misled Malaysians by reporting an IMF "glowing report" on Malaysia when this was an outdated report prepared before the economic crisis in July last year.
Bernama not only passed off a six-month old report on the Malaysian economy before the economic crisis as the latest IMF report, it also misled Malaysians in failing to report the IMF’s latest report on the Malaysian economy released in Washington on Dec. 19, 1997 in the form of its Interim World Economic Outlook, which gave the forecast that Malaysia’s economic growth this year would be 2.5 per cent. Thirdly, Bernama reported on Tuesday, which appeared in the mass media yesterday, that the IMF had issued a report on "International Capital Markets" concerning its latest study on the Asian financial turmoil where it said that the ringgit's depreciation was due to the limited support given by Bank Negara to the currency after the baht's effective devaluation on July 2.
The issue here is that this IMF report was put online on Dec. 4 on the IMF website and Bernama should have been able to report it by the first week of December if it had kept abreast with the latest IT developments.
We want the Bernama to be a national news agency, and not a national old news agency.
Section 4 of the Bernama Act, 1967 sets out the following objectives of the national news agency, namely:
"4. Objects of Bernama:
(a) to seek for and present complete, objective and impartial news or news material on any matter of public and national interests within and outside Malaysia;
(b) to distribute such news or news material to subscribers against payment either in the form of fees or news exchange or both; and
(c) to report truthfully and fairly, without prejudice to public and national interest, the views of all sections of the population of Malaysia"
Section 6 provides for a mechanism for complaints against the Bernama violating its statutory objectives to be investigated, namely:
"6. Supervisory Council's function:
(a) to ensure that Bernama shall at all times abide by this Act;
(b) to consider any complaint from a newspaper, radio pr television subscriber to Bernama alleging failure or default by Bernama to comply with any of the objects or principles laid down in this Act; and
(c) to consider any matter referred to it by the Board."
Section 7 provides for the composition of such a Supervisory Council, namely:
Members of Council
(1)The Members of the Supervisory Council shall be appointed by the Yang di Pertuan Agong and shall be as follows: -
(a)a Judge of the High Court (to be appointed in consultation with the Lord President) who shall be the President of the Council;
(b)one representative of the Government of Malaysia.
(c) one representative of the newspapers in Malaysia.
(d)the Vice Chancellor of any one of the Universities in Malaysia; and (e)one other person.
Bernama has clearly violated Section (4)(1)(a) on its statutory duty "to seek for and present complete, objective and impartial news or news material on any matter of public and national interests within and outside Malaysia" and I hope a full inquiry would be held into my complaint to make Bernama a national news agency which could be the pride of Malaysians rather than the butt of jokes.