MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku



10 APRIL 2024

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cartoons prompted media clampdown

According to Wikileaks, former premier Abullah Ahmad Badawi tightened the government's grip on the media following the controversy surrounding the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

KUALA LUMPUR: Caricatures of Prophet Muhammad published in two dailies and aired on two free-to-air TV channels as well as the ensuing protests led former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to clampdown on the media.

According to whistleblower website Wikileaks, Abdullah tightened the government’s grip on media sources when the images appeared in the New Straits Times, the Chinese-language Berita Petang Sarawak, Guang Ming Daily, the Sarawak Tribune, and TV channels RTM1, RTM2, and Umno-controlled TV3 and NTV7 in 2006.

Of these, Berita Petang Sarawak, Guang Ming Daily and the Sarawak Tribune had their publishing permits suspended – a fate which the NST avoided by publishing a full-page apology on its front page.

As a result of the seditious cartoon, the Sarawak Tribune was suspended for four years, only returning to the stands in May last year under the banner of the New Sarawak Tribune.

Opposition PAS and several religious leaders also fanned the cartoon flames despite efforts by the government and mainstream media to put the controversy behind them, with about 500 protesters gathering outside NST’s office here.

Supporters of PAS and of Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR waved signs and shouted slogans that referred to the NST editors as “bastards” and agents of Israel and Singapore, it added.

PAS also tried to organise similar protests at mosques in every state capital, while the Perak government-funded religious council website posted an online poll asking readers whether Muslims should “hunt and kill, or launch war” against those who “insulted Prophet Muhammad.”

TV3 and NTV7 not only aired an apology for “accidentally” broadcasting a news segment that showed one of the controversial images, but also sent a written explanation of its actions to the Energy, Water and Communications ministry.

Because of the increasing competition from online alternative media, a diplomatic cable said, the mainstream media felt the pressure to produce more objective news stories.

The leak alleged that the silencing of three papers and apologies made was demanded by Abdullah to remind the media that boundaries still existed on press freedom.

The leak was based on a confidential cable from the US embassy here to the US State Department in Washington. The cable was published in the Malaysia Today website today.

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