As MCA takeover of Nanyang Press will put two Chinese newspapers under double jeopardy, MCA should issue  a Charter of Press Freedom to be monitored by an independent panel

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): With the endorsement of the MCA Presidential Council yesterday  though with three abstentions of the MCA takeover of two Chinese newspapers, Nanyang Siang Pao and China Press, through the MCA-owned Huaren Holdings, the majority shareholder of Star Publications (M) Bhd., the stage is set for the further concentration of political party ownership of the mass media and another grievous blow to a free, independent and  responsible press in Malaysia.

In fact, with the MCA acquisition of the Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd,  the  two Chinese dailies in its stable of holdings, Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press, come under double jeopardy: firstly, political interference by the MCA and secondly, interference by UMNO and UMNO proxies

Dismissing the overwhelming objections and criticisms of the Chinese community of  any MCA takeover of the two Chinese newspapers, MCA President Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik cited the MCA-owned Star as an example that  the party does not interfere in the newspaper business which  is run by “a professionally good board and has very good reporters”.

Ling was being too ingenious in his denial of MCA political interference with the Star, when  everybody knows that Star  journalists who really believes in journalistic independence, ethics and responsibility and do not go along with the MCA slant of news and views would find themselves in “conventry”  very soon or outside the establishment altogether.

When Nanyang Siang Pao and China Press come under direct MCA ownership and control, they would be important vehicles in the desperate battle of the MCA to restore the support of the Chinese community - which has reached such a crisis level  that the Prime Minister has to take the unprecedented decision to appoint  two Chinese as his special aides to understand what is happening in the  Chinese community.

This would greatly undermine and compromise the professionalism, independence and integrity of the journalists in the two Chinese newspapers.
There is however a second jeopardy faced by the two Chinese newspapers after the MCA takeover,  putting them directly under the influence and control of UMNO and UMNO proxies as well.

The recent media episode over the controversy of SPM high-achievers who could not be admitted to universities is a case in point. The UMNO-owned Berita Harian launched an attack not only against me but also against the Star, MCA and Gerakan for  being communalistic over the issue, and it is most astonishing that none of  the trio dared to reply or rebut the Berita Harian onslaughts.

If MCA-owned Star and MCA itself could be the subject of criticisms and attack by UMNO-owned Berita Harian, with neither one of them daring to defend itself, one can envisage that Nanyang Siang Pao and China Press after MCA takeover would be under intense  influence or pressure of  UMNO or UMNO proxies like Berita Harian if they are perceived to be “out of line”.
As the MCA takeover of Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd will put the  two Chinese newspapers its publishes under double jeopardy, MCA should issue  a Charter of Press Freedom to be monitored by an independent panel.  Such a Charter should  guarantee MCA’s respect for the independence, professionalism and integrity of the journalists in Nanyang Siang Pao and China Press as well as promising no interference, whether direct or indirect, in the news and editorial management, conduct and policy of the two dailies.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman