Transport minister defends aide in RTM row, questions part omission of ‘live’ event

Transport Minister Anthony Loke speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony in Menara Sentral RAC, Brickfields February 19, 2019. — Picture by FIrdaus Latif
Transport Minister Anthony Loke speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony in Menara Sentral RAC, Brickfields February 19, 2019. — Picture by FIrdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 ― Anthony Loke came to the defence of his press secretary Lim Swee Kuan whose strident criticism of state-owned broadcaster RTM in a Facebook post drew backlash after it was reported.

The transport minister said his aide’s words denigrating RTM and insistence that “heads must roll” reflected his personal feelings and were not an infringement of media freedom.

“It's not a question of infringing media freedom. It's a question of it's a live event and why certain portion of the live event was taken out. I think that's the real issue here.

“Number one: it is a government TV station and it was supposed to be a live event but why certain portion taken out? I think that's the crux of the issue here. But as I mentioned, I don't want to pursue further,” Loke told reporters after a groundbreaking ceremony at Menara Sentral RAC here.

Two days ago, Lim penned an accusatory post on Facebook claiming RTM of trying to sabotage the federal government when it did not broadcast speeches by Loke and Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Aminuddin Harun during its “live coverage of the Malaysia Chinese New Year Open House 2019 in Seremban.

In the post, Lim demanded an explanation from the broadcaster for the omission even as he said “heads must roll”, adding that he will file a formal complaint to Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo who oversees RTM.

Today, Loke said he is leaving investigation of the matter to his Cabinet colleague and denied issuing instructions to Lim regarding the latter’s social media post.

“We have left it for Gobind to investigate it. I haven't given any instructions. Of course, he said it based on his own feelings, but I've never given him any instructions but we'll leave it to the respective minister to handle and investigate further,” said Loke.

The transport minister also pointed out that a press secretary cannot give instructions to a minister.

Loke also rejected former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s claim that Lim’s words were tantamount to intimidation of a public servant, saying his aide was merely giving a personal opinion.

However, Loke said he spoke to Lim after the incident, but declined to share what was said.