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New Straits Times Interactive Online News from AFP




Malaysian police urged to detain "errant" foreign media reporters

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 (AFP) - The Malaysia authorities were urged Tuesday to detain reporters working for foreign media under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) if they sensationalise stories or are not "fair" to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

In a commentary alleging "disregard for fair play" among foreign media, the New Straits Times newspaper said other forms of punishment could include lawsuits and restrictions on circulation.

The newspaper, which reflects government views, said Malaysians were "generally aggrieved" with "sensationalist" reports by the Singapore-based CNBC network and the Hong Kong-based Asian Wall Steet Journal, both owned by Dow Jones Inc. of the United States.

"Many would also ask of them to stop taking sides, stop being prejudiced and be fair to Dr. Mahathir," it said, apparently referring to reports on the dismissal and arrest of former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar now faces corruption and sodomy charges.

"Otherwise, we would urge the Malaysian government to adopt Singapore-style 'hardball' tactics with the press, where errant media companies and their reporters will be sued, have their circulation banned or restricted and errant reporters detained under the ISA," it added.

Anwar and another six associates are held under the ISA, providing for indefinite detention without trial.

As an additional punishment, Malaysian companies should be barred from advertising with accused media companies. "This way, they can't make fun of us and take our money at the same time," the newspaper said.

"What Malaysians are basically saying to foreign media companies is this -- be fair and truthful in your reporting," it said, adding that Malaysia could not compete with "big powerful corporations and giants like CNN and CNBC."

"If the foreign media continue to ignore our pleas, our government should ban those gulty ones from operating in the country," it said.

"It is better to have no news than to have untruthful news," the newspaper said.

"In an unequal world, we are justified in introducing some measures to provide some rebalancing so that we can minimise some of the inequality."

The New Straits Times also denounced western media for allegedly describing Mahathir as a "dictator" after Anwar's dismissal on September 2 "and suggesting that Anwar may be innocent.

"Why prejudge? As a matter of fact, you will discover that many Malaysians, who know more of the facts than the western media, think otherwise. They believe Dr. Mahathir has acted responsibly as a gentleman and a statesman."

The newspaper noted Singapore's strict supervision of the foreign media, recalling several cases of government retaliation against regional and international publications.

Special Functions Minister Daim Zainuddin meanwile said foreign media would "always prejudge" Malaysia.

"They love to see instability, they love to see riots on the streets so they can run us down," he told an economic conference.

"There is very little that we can do about the bias of the foreign media."

Daim urged Malaysians to "believe in the country, in the government and in themselves. We have to fight our own battle. Nobody is going to fight for us.

"We are going to win this battle in the end but we must be strong. The government is doing its best but we need your support," he said. "We know what we are doing."

Information Minister Mohamed Rahmat recently told Malaysians working for foreign media to "repent for the sake of the country" and avoid inaccurate reporting.

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