Utusan 'torch for independence’, says senior editor

Jailani told the forum that the government takes press freedom seriously. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Jailani told the forum that the government takes press freedom seriously. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 — An Utusan Malaysia senior editor declared today that the Umno-owned paper is a “torch for independence”, claiming that there is no direct interference from the political party.

Utusan Malaysia senior editor (Online) Gamal Nasir Mohd Ali also told a forum that the Malay-language broadsheet is more open and transparent than other media as it acknowledges that it is owned by the Malay ruling party, with Umno owning half of the newspaper’s shares.

“I’ve been in Utusan for the past 30 years — I’ve not seen any direct interference by political parties, by Umno, in Utusan,” Gamal Nasir said at the Journalism Now forum here organised by the Institute of Journalists Malaysia, the Foreign Correspondents Club and the European Union.

“In Utusan, we’re always reminded about how we operate in our newsroom as being Utusan. You’re aware that Utusan was established in Singapore in 1938, and the first newspaper came out in 1939. It becomes a torch for independence,” he added.

The Utusan senior editor said the broadsheet operates on three principles called “Alif Ba Ta”, which refer to religion, race and national issues.

“When we operate, that mentality is ingrained among our generation,” said Gamal Nasir.

He also said racial issues that spark uproar can generally be handled, but the difficulty is when social media allows people to make “unfair” racial and religious remarks.

“If you start doing that, issues that are supposed to be handled in a calm and good manner, become overblown and uncontrollable. That, to me, is the problem,” said Gamal Nasir.

Communication and Multimedia Deputy Minister Datuk Jailani Johari told the forum that the government takes press freedom seriously.

“The Malaysian government, on its part, is committed to facilitating this process by honouring the ideals of a free and independent press and recognising its role as the Fourth Estate,” he said.

Malaysian journalists, however, have been investigated for sedition over reports critical of the establishment, while Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has sued news portal Malaysiakini for defamation.

Four journalists from news portal The Malaysian Insider and their publisher were detained overnight last March in a sedition probe over a news report on hudud, which was later retracted.

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