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Watchdog wants Utusan to drop case against union leader

January 19, 2011

International Federation of Journalists says Utusan must reinstate NUJ chief Hata Wahari to his full duties and abandon further disciplinary action.

KUALA LUMPUR: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the management of the Utusan Melayu newspaper to respect the rights of working journalists to freely discuss industry issues, amid concerns the paper is victimising the leader of the country’s journalists’ union.

Utusan Melayu, which publishes the widely read Utusan Malaysia, initiated a domestic inquiry into the actions of Hata Wahari, an employee of the paper and president of the National Union of Journalists of Malaysia (NUJM), which was scheduled for Jan 17.

However, after 30 minutes of argument from NUJM General Secretary V Anbalagan, the inquiry chairman Mohd Bashir Abdul Rahim abandoned the inquiry for unexplained reasons.

Utusan has suspended Wahari indefinitely.

In a statement, Anbalagan said that despite the possibility that the NUJM would not be permitted to represent the journalist, Hata was prepared to continue with the domestic inquiry in order to clear his name.

The inquiry was sparked by a series of statements by Hata regarding professional and industrial concerns of union members, particularly regarding the state of journalistic ethics.

Utusan Melayu claimed that Hata, as an employee of the paper, had tarnished its image, the NUJM reported.

“The IFJ is extremely concerned that a media organisation would attempt to pursue a journalist for speaking out on ethical journalism and other important professional concerns,” IFJ Asia-Pacific director Jacqueline Park said.

“Media organisations seeking to produce quality journalism are encouraged to listen to the concerns of staff, aired through their union representatives, and to work together towards improving standards and conditions in the industry.”

Hata had faced eight counts of misconduct for issuing statements to The Sun newspaper and news portals Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider and Merdeka Review between Sept 21 and Oct 14, 2010.

In September 2009, former NUJM branch chairman and Utusan Melayu employee Amran Ahmad was dismissed after a domestic inquiry by the company. His case is now before the Industrial Court.

The IFJ calls for the company to reinstate Hata to his full duties and abandon further disciplinary action against the journalist.

The IFJ also calls for Utusan management to support staff members who are promoting the professional and industrial rights of working journalists.


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