December 22, 2010 GEORGE TOWN, Dec 22 – Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has given Utusan Malaysia two weeks to apologise before he takes the daily to court. Lim’s lawyer, Jagdeep Singh Deo, told reporters today he had sent a letter of demand to the national Malay newspaper yesterday asking it to withdraw certain words said to be slanderous in its December 20 article titled “Kebiadaban Guan Eng (The Rudeness of Guan Eng)”. Utusan had said to have called Lim a racist and an “anti-Malay” in the article that ran a day after the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) rally. Lim who is the party’s secretary-general also wants the paper to publish an apology and pay compensation for defaming him. Jagdeep said Lim had denied the allegations in his notice of demand. “He has also not gone against the Malays or oppressed them, did not cancel the Maulidur Rasul procession or stop the Malays from trading in Komtar during Ramadan month and has not demolished any villages,” said the lawyer who is also the state DAP vice-chairman,. “Neither has the chief minister used funds from the Penang Turf Club for the senior citizens’ appreciation programme,” Jagdeep added. Lim had vowed personal court action against the Umno-owned daily for allegedly calling him a foreign stooge and urging the DAP be banned. “These are lies printed by Utusan,” the first-term Penang chief minister told The Malaysian Insider two days’ ago. “I have no choice but to take a civil suit for defamation against Utusan,” Lim said, adding his party would also file a separate defamation suit against the paper. Jagdeep said Lim had sent Utusan Malaysia five letters of demand since 2008. One defamation suit has already been filed in court, he added.
The above hasn’t taken into account the fact that for the past year, Utusan has often granted DAP leaders exclusive frontpage coverage to Karpal Singh, Teo Nie Ching and even myself, for daring to suggest that the housing discount for the wealthy bumiputeras be channelled towards helping the bumiputera poor. In fact, if one were to conduct a search of “DAP” in Utusan on Google based on the year of publication, 2007 will return 291 results, 2008 – 876 results, 2009 – 12,400 results and 2010 will give a record 29,800 results to date. It is most laughable when Utusan had to plead to its readers not to boycott the paper due to “political sentiments” (“Pembaca akhbar tidak boleh terikut-ikut tindakan memboikot Utusan Malaysia kerana sentimen politik…”) and blame Pakatan Rakyat for its affected business. Circulation for Utusan has plummeted drastically in recent years from 256,247 in 2004 to 213,445 in 2006 and 169,548 in 2009 or a 33.8% drop in 5 years. Profit before tax for the newspaper group has also plunged from RM21 million to RM7 million over the past 4 years. It appears that Utusan is attempting to rationalise its loss of readership due to external factors instead of looking inwards at their incessant racial posturing, outright lies and inflammatory headlines such as “Bangkitlah Melayu” as being the main causes. In fact, based on the statistics above, there is a correlation between the rapidly increasing attacks against the DAP and the rapidly declining circulation of the newspaper. National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Hata Wahari, who himself is a Utusan journalist had demanded that Utusan Malaysia abolish editorial policies which go against “journalistic ethics” in order to tackle a severe drop in its readership circulation. He claimed that the Malay daily’s reporting was “biased” in nature, saying that positive coverage revolved around Barisan Nasional (BN) while negative reports were specifically reserved for Pakatan Rakyat (PR). He added that Utusan also does not give an opportunity for an accused to answer certain allegations by choosing not to publish it. Even the Minister in the Prime Minister’s department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had accused Utusan of becoming “racist” in its reporting in September this year. In fact, Utusan is a proven liar with leading opposition figures, MP for Pokok Sena, Mahfuz Omar and Tenaganita Director, Irene Fernandez, awarded RM120,000 and RM200,000 in damages respectively in defamation suits against the paper. Dozens of other defamation suits are still waiting to be disposed in the courts. The relentless attacks on the DAP only serves to prove that DAP and Pakatan Rakyat are making major inroads in proving to the people that we are not only competent in governance, we have proven that despite having a DAP chief minister in Penang, Malays and Muslims enjoy greater rights and benefits than under a BN administration. This is due to a more caring government, which is able to fund its welfare policies through more effective and efficient administration, as well as reducing wastage and corruption through open tenders for all government projects. I had on 1 November 2010 challenged Utusan Malaysia to an open debate on its many allegations against the “racist” DAP. Unfortunately, the editors chose not to defend their allegations with facts and figures in the open but continued to throw baseless, wild and wicked accusations against the DAP. This proves that Utusan’s cowardly agenda is to flood its readers with lies and half-truths against the DAP and Pakatan Rakyat for it has no ability or courage to withstand impartial public scrutiny. The Prime Minister, despite his call for “moderation” in reporting, has failed to reign in his party’s newspaper and his 1Malaysia policy will only fail as a result of Utusan’s extremist and racist reporting. [Media Statement by Tony Pua, DAP National Publicity Secretary and Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, 22 Dec 2010]