On Friday, Bername scored its second international “scoop” in three weeks, when its office in Washington “obtained” an exclusive copy of a report on Malaysia by “an influential American group”, the American Defence Council, entitled “Special Report for Foreign Policy LAs” alleged to have been distributed to all aides of the United States Congressmen in Capitol Hill.
Does the “influential American group”, the American Defence Council, exist or is it a pure concoction/figment of the imagination and the second international scoop by Bernama in three weeks the biggest hoax ever perpetrated in the history of Malaysian journalism using a phantom organisation?
It is significant that Bernama has not responded so far to media statements questioning the veracity of its “scoop” as nobody in Washington seems to have heard or known of the existence the American Defence Council and that it neither has a website or telephone contact, although Bernama had described it as “an influential American group”.
I had said that an American lobby group which does not even maintain a website cannot but be a very fringe outfit, and in this connection, I should make a correction as I was being unfair as in the United States, even the “very fringe outfits” also have their websites - which would relegate the American Defence Council to the most remote outer fringes of the “very fringe outfits” in the US if it is not a phantom organisation altogether.
Bernama should give Malaysians all the relevant details of the “influential American group”, its history, influence, galaxy of personalities and moving lights, why it hailed the American Defence Council as “an influential American group” or it should apologise to Malaysians for perpetrating the biggest hoax in the history of Malaysian journalism.
If the American Defence Council is a phantom creature, Bernama should reveal the true identity of the writer of the so-called “Special Report for Foreign Policy LAs” on Malaysia.
Is the Bernama correspondent in Washington or some other Malaysian source the author of this report which described Malaysia as "the most politically and democratically stable nation in Asia" in spite of the country's heterogeneous society and warned of the danger posed by PAS to the Malaysian democracy and the “inseparable” hope and political future of both countries “for the promotion and spread of peace, democracy and tolerance throughout all of the Asian region" currently “endangered by the growing threat to Malaysia's democratic institutions by religious fundamentalists, militants and extremists"?
Section 4 of the Bernama Act, 1967 sets out the following objectives
of the national news agency, namely:
"4. Objects of Bernama:Section 6 provides for a mechanism for complaints against the Bernama violating its statutory objectives to be investigated, namely:
(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"
"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 or 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.”
If the Bernama Washington office’s “scoop” is the greatest hoax in the Malaysian journalistic history, then 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 it should be the subject of a full inquiry by the Bernama Supervisory Council.