Lim Guan Eng today defended Penang’s decision to ban Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia, calling it a “party organ” masquerading as a newspaper following criticism that the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) bloc does not guarantee media freedom.
On Wednesday, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) said in its report that a Pakatan Rakyat-led government was no guarantor of media freedom due to its banning of Utusan in Penang and Kelantan.
But the Penang chief minister insisted today that when it came to media freedom, newspapers must “walk the talk”.
“When you talk about newspapers, you have to be clear, are they newspapers or party organs? You cannot have party organs that masquerade as newspapers,” he told reporters at a press conference here.
“Utusan Malaysia is not a newspaper. It is a party organ because they don’t give you right of reply.”
He cited Utusan’s yearly reports that Penang had banned a march to commemorate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday as proof of the newspaper’s false reporting and reluctance to allow him to reply to its articles.
“Every year, Utusan says (the march) is banned, when actually it isn’t. Penang people know (that it is not banned). Penang Malays laugh because they themselves marched in it.”
Lim, who is also DAP secretary-general, said that despite refuting the newspaper’s articles on the matter, Utusan only stopped reporting it after he had sued them and won the case.
But he pointed out that as he could not sue Utusan “every day” for its “false reports”, he was left with no option but to bar its reporters from covering the state government proceedings in Penang.
“Even when I sue and won the case, they still continue. What can I do? It’s an act of self defence. I have no choice but to say ‘please don’t cover me and print my news’,” he said.
“It’s okay with me because I’m scared of you. I throw my hands up. Don’t cover me because you don’t give me the right of reply,” he said.
The Penang legislative assembly adopted a motion in May 2011 barring Utusan from covering its proceedings following unverified reports on the renovation costs of Lim’s rented residence, and an alleged plot by the DAP and Christian pastors to change the country’s official religion to Christianity.