Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Joint Media Statement:- "Utusan" must respect NUJ leader; call off domestic inquiry

Centre for Independent Journalism
Charter 2000-Aliran
Writers' Alliance for Media Independence
1 Muted Malaysia

Joint Media Statement (5 January 2011): "Utusan" must respect NUJ leader; call off domestic inquiry
We are four civil society groups speaking up in support of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Hata Wahari, who is facing a domestic inquiry by his employer, “Utusan Malaysia,” for being critical of political interference in the newspaper.

We echo the words of NUJ general secretary V Anbalagan that Hata was speaking in his capacity as a union official and thus merely exercising his rightful duty and fulfilling his national obligation. The management of “Utusan Malaysia” is as free to make a public rebuttal if it disagreed with Hata. It should not penalise Hata by subjecting him to a domestic inquiry that may result in him being fired.

According to Hata, the domestic inquiry notice followed two show-cause letters from the management – on 14 October 2010 and 14 November – in response to his first statement as NUJ president on 21 September. The domestic inquiry letter was dated 23 December, and received on 27 December.

Hata has been speaking out since he was elected to the top union position in September, and appears to be implementing his election manifesto, which includes engaging in efforts to abolish the draconian Printing Presses and Publications Act as well as promoting ethical reporting on religious and race issues. He also aimed to monitor newspapers that contravene journalism ethics in this regard ( His first statement took to task senior editors of the much-criticised “Utusan Malaysia” for failing to advocate media freedom in their quest to serve the agenda of their political masters UMNO. His new year statement cited racist rhetoric in the same paper as the reason for the daily’s declining sale, and urged the authorities to act against the editors for inciting racial hatred.

We note that this is the first time in a long while since an NUJ leader has spoken up against unethical media practices, which he correctly blamed on the lack of media independence due to political interference and restrictive laws.

We believe that Hata was not only speaking up for the integrity of the profession, but for the right of all Malaysians to have a media that will put the people as their first loyalty, and truth as their first obligation, which means allowing as many different perspectives as possible so that the people can judge and decide for themselves what is truth.

We view any attempt to sack the union president for expressing his opinion in defence of journalistic integrity as a serious attack on the freedom of expression and media freedom.

We call on all journalists, unionised or not, to stand behind Hata and urge for the domestic inquiry, rescheduled to 17 January, to be called off.

Similarly, all Malaysians who want a free media must now speak up and stand in line together with the journalists.

Jointly issued by:
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
Charter 2000-Aliran
Writers' Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
1 Muted Malaysia

For more information, contact: Masjaliza Hamzah, CIJ Executive Officer, 03-40230772; Anil Netto and Mustafa K Anuar, Charter 2000-Aliran coordinators,; Wong Chin Huat, WAMI chairperson,; or Josh Hong, 1 Muted Malaysia coordinator,


CIJ is a non-profit organisation that aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free, where all peoples will enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek and impart information.

Charter 2000-Aliran is a group of Malaysian individuals and organisations committed to striving for media freedom in Malaysia through the promotion of a media charter to raise public awareness.

WAMI is a group of writers for the Chinese media in Malaysia, which aims to defend and promote media independence for freer public discussion and wider democratic space. It was formed by about 90 writers who quit writing for the mainstream Chinese media in May 2001 in protest over the coerced takeover of the non-partisan Nanyang Press by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a ruling coalition member party.

1 Muted Malaysia is a citizens’ initiative in response to the shrinking public space for expression as evidenced by series of book bans, sackings and arrests involving writers, media practitioners and artists.

Also see Malaysiakini report,

NUJ stands behind its chief who faces inquiry
Regina Lee
Jan 5, 11
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is standing behind its president Hata Wahari, who is facing admonishment over his public statements against his employer, Utusan Malaysia.

Calling Utusan anti-union and having scant regard for justice, the union revealed that the top management of the daily had refused to allow “outside representatives” to assist Hata when he faces a domestic inquiry (DI) in two weeks.

This means that only an in-house representative from the Utusan branch of NUJ can assist Hata in the inquiry scheduled for Jan 17.

NONE“We are of the view that Hata (right) has the right to be represented by an official from the NUJ since the Utusan branch is affiliated to the national body.

“Nowhere in the NUJ-UM collective agreement (2005-2008) is it stated that Hata could only be represented by someone from within the company,” general secretary V Anbalagan said in a statement.

Representing the entire executive committee which met in an emergency meeting last night to discuss the issue, Anbalagan also said he had previously tried to represent former Utusan NUJ branch leader Amran Ahmad when he was also hauled up before a DI, to no avail.

“All these show that Utusan is anti-union and has scant regard for justice and fair play,” he said.

In a strongly-worded statement, the union took more potshots at the Umno-owned daily, calling the DI “an act of victimisation of a union leader”.

“It is also aimed at crippling the NUJ leadership and to serve as a warning against Utusan-based journalists,” the statement said.

The union is also calling the DI to be brought forward immediately. The inquiry was initially fixed for tomorrow but was postponed to Jan 17.

“The union is disappointed with the Utusan management for having deferred Hata's DI. His alleged misconduct has been hanging over his head for the last two months,” it said.

It was previously reported that Hata had received his notice, which was dated Dec 23.

Not the first Utusan union leader in hot water

Hata is facing eight counts of misconduct for issuing statements to news portals Malaysiakini, The Malaysian Insider and Merdeka Review, and The Sun newspaper between Sept 21 and Oct 14 last year.

The notice said he stands accused of insulting the company's management and tarnishing the company's image following his comments that appeared in several publications.

Hata is a senior journalist with Utusan Malaysia and was elected NUJ president last September.

Since then, Hata has criticised Utusan several times for publishing pro-Umno propaganda and blamed its editorial policy for the daily's dwindling circulation.

If sacked, Hata would be the third Utusan employee to face the boot for his union activities. Former NUJ president Yazid Othman as well as the NUJ-Utusan chairperson Amran had previously been dismissed during their tenure in office.

“The NUJ still hopes that Utusan will seriously consider calling off the DI. We take the stand that Hata, in his capacity as NUJ president, issued the statements in defence of press freedom and the welfare of members.

Utusan's stand is ludicrous as it claimed that Hata, as the employee of the company, had tarnished its image,” the statement added.

Section 6 of the Trade Unions Act says that “no suit shall lie against any public servant for anything done or omitted to be done by him in good faith without negligence and in intended exercise of any power or performance of any duty provided or imposed by this Act.” - Malaysiakini, 5/1/2011, NUJ stands behind its chief who faces inquiry

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