The 47th PAS Muktamar resolution opposed the MCA takeover of the two Chinese newspapers as it would curtail the freedom of the press enjoyed by the Chinese community and for being a scheme to protect the MCA and Barisan Nasional’s political interests.
Last Thursday, the emergency meeting of the Barisan Alternative Leaders’ Council unanimously condemned the MCA takeover of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press as a grave threat to press freedom, human rights and democracy in Malaysia.
The Barisan Alternative Leaders’ Council was convinced that although the first victims of the MCA takeover of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press will be the anti-Ling Liong Sik MCA faction led by MCA Deputy President Datuk Lim Ah Lek, other victims would include the legitimate rights and interests of the Malaysian Chinese community, in particular Chinese mother-tongue education, press freedom, human rights and democracy in Malaysia.
This was why the Barisan Alternative leaders from PAS, Keadilan, PRM and DAP unanimously called on the MCA to rescind its decision to acquire ownership stakes of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press and urged Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political beliefs to unite to oppose the MCA takeover of the two Chinese newspapers as an unacceptable trend in the further concentration of political party media ownership and the greater encroachment of the human rights and democratic freedoms of Malaysians.
Yesterday, the Gerakan Chief Minister of Penang, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon criticised the MCA takeover of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press.
I call on the Gerakan President and Minister for Primary Industries, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik to raise the controversy of the MCA takeover of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday and to ask the Cabinet to oppose the MCA takeover in view of the overwhelming objections not only of the Chinese community but the informed Malaysian society as well.
The views expressed in yesterday’s New Sunday Times column, “Other Thots” by A. Kadir Jasin that the MCA had “in one bold and highly controversial move … resurrected its tauke image and became the country's largest newspaper owner” deserves serious consideration by all Malaysians who are concerned by the far-reaching implications of the MCA gobbling up the two Chinese newspapers.
“With the purchase, MCA now has two Chinese language newspapers, one English language newspaper (The Star) and more than a dozen magazines.
“That makes the MCA a formidable political player in the usually sensitive and troublesome media business. The deal will have far reaching implications on the media and political scenes.
“To begin with, it happens at the time when Umno, the dominant member of the Barisan Nasional coalition, has been progressively winding down its direct involvement in the media business.
“The party had for more than a decade been reducing its involvement in the business, starting with the sale of its controlling interest in the New Straits Times (Press) Malaysia Bhd and Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Bhd (TV3) to Renong in 1991.
“It is now involved only in the Utusan Melayu Bhd, the publisher of mass circulating Utusan Malaysia and the Sunday behemoth, Mingguan Malaysia.
“It is not far wrong to consider the Star Publications Bhd-Nanyang Press Bhd combine as the most formidable media group in the country - rivalled perhaps only by the Tan Sri Ananda Krishnan's Astro satellite television.
“The Star is the country's largest English language newspaper while the China Press is the second largest Chinese language newspaper while the influential Nanyang Siang Pau comes third.
“As of Thursday (May 31), the Star-Nanyang combine boasted market capitalisation of RM1.66 billion against New Straits Times Press's RM568 million and Utusan Melayu's RM136 million.”
“Despite the MCA's assurance that it will not interfere in the running of the newspapers, pointing to its arm's length relationship with The Star, the detractors fear that Nanyang and China Press may represent less of the Chinese voice but more of the MCA. Or at the very least the MCA's interpretation of the Chinese voice.
“Others pointed to the possibility of the two newspapers being the victims of the so-called hei siow or the black hand and wondered why the rival Sin Chew Jit Poh was silent on the deal until the last few days.
“Yet other sources ventured to suggest that the game is far from over, saying that a friendly takeover of the two newspapers could work to their detriment vis-a-vis their ability to challenge Sin Chew, which is seen as more independent and daring.
“Already Sin Chew is leading the pack with a big margin. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, Sin Chew had an audited sales of 298,921 last year against Nanyang's 187,458 and China Press's 202,066.”
The reasons why there is such unprecedentedly swift and strong objections by the Malaysian Chinese community to the MCA take-over is the double jeopardy faced by the two Chinese newspapers of having to be subservient firstly to the dictates of MCA and secondly to the dictates of UMNO and UMNO proxies.
Kadir’s column has only underlined the reality and seriousness of such a double jeopardy faced by the Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press journalists after the MCA takeover.