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Monday, September 8, 2008

STATEMENT BY SIN CHEW DAILY: The Ahmad Ismail Report: We Stand By Our Story

On 25th August, Sin Chew Daily reported the speech made by Bukit Bendera UMNO Division Chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail at a BN ceramah in Kampung Pelet during the Permatang Pauh by-election. The report comprised only three short paragraphs and appeared on page 8 as a side-bar to the main article which was on the speech on the same occasion and made by Deputy Umno President Datuk Seri Najib, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister. The report contains 144 words, and was a mere 1.89% of the total layout of that page. The reporter was reporting the event factually and did not have any intention to play up Ahmad's speech.

The Deputy Prime Minister was present throughout Ahmad’s speech. On 2nd September, on the basis that part of Ahmad Ismail's speech could hurt the feelings of different races, the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the Deputy President of Umno, tendered a public apology on behalf of Umno. It is believed that such apology was made because he has heard Ahmad's speech and not because of the report in Sin Chew Daily.

After the incident, certain newspapers, websites and bloggers have started to make allegations against Sin Chew Daily. Some of these were that the report by Sin Chew Daily contained a racial agenda and personal agenda, sedition, lack of professionalism, provocative, irresponsible journalism and the like. Some have even tried to link the report to the revocation of the publication license of Sin Chew Daily during “Operation Lalang” in 1987.

At the same time, various political parties and association leaders have also expressed their views.

Ahmad Ismail did not make any clarification or denial of the report, neither has he requested Sin Chew Daily to make any correction. It was only 10 days after the report was published, Ahmad Ismail held a press conference. He admitted that, he said that the Chinese are lodgers, but it was an interpretation of the history which depicted the role of the race prior to Merdeka. He said: “As I have not made any statement to state that the present Chinese race are lodgers in this Country, I maintain my position.” He accused the reporter in question of having a personal agenda and claimed that she does not specialise in political news coverage. Supporters of Ahmad queried the command of the Malay language of the reporter, and claimed that she could not have heard the statement clearly.

The reporter, Tan Hoon Cheng, is a Mass Communication graduate from Universiti Sains Malaysia. Her command of the national language is at least that of university level. In her nine years experience as a reporter, she has covered various political conferences and speeches, and no mistakes were ever made. If she had a personal agenda, she will not stop at just making a factual report of Ahmad's speech. She did not use a single adjective in her report.

On 8th of September, Ahmad has through a press conference reiterated that he would not apologise.

It is normal for news reports or commentaries to be challenged and questioned. But in this incident, unlike any other we have faced before, Sin Chew Daily has not only to face the person involved, we also have to face intentional challenges and accusations from various websites, bloggers and certain newspapers. We do not know the motive of these particular individuals or organisations, but to us, these allegations are not only unfair but false.

As a newspaper, we do not have any powerful back up, our financial and human resources are also limited. These restrictions have however never prevented Sin Chew Daily from performing its role as a media, protecting press freedom and the right to information of our readers.

After the incident, a lot of readers have shown their support and friends from all over have called Sin Chew Daily to express their support. To all of them, we at Sin Chew Daily express our gratitude. Over the years, readers and all open-minded parties have shown their support and this has been our strength.

In relation to our manner of handling the news report for this incident, our conscience is clear. We believe firmly that we have to handle it in the manner we had, and it is only right for us to handle it that way.

We adhere to high ethical and editorial standards. We only seek to publish news on a timely, accurate and unbiased basis. There are no hidden agendas. We stand by our story.

Issued on behalf of Sin Chew Daily
8 Sept 2008


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