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Rude British diplomats irk newsman and TV crew

May 30, 2012

FMT LETTER: From M Krishnamoorthy, via e-mail

British diplomats were not media friendly and threatened a freelance ITV news crew on assignment at a leading hotel in KL and called security to evict them yesterday.

The event was by invitation and Tory Party leader Baroness Warsi was giving a luncheon talk organised by ASLI.

The British diplomat warned the ITV Channel 4 crew that it was a private event and that they not welcome.

I represented ITV news from London and wished to interview Tory Party co-chairman Lady Warsi on her alleged false rental claims.

It was our responsibility to get Baroness Warsi’s side of the story on the allegations levelled against her.

It was the lead story of the day in London and the television network assigned me to cover the event at short notice. As a result we were seeking permission to interview her.

I was shocked at the arrogant and high handed actions by diplomats to the television crew.

I was not cowed and told them to call the security because we were not committing a crime, and as media people we were only covering a public figure in a public area.

It all started when an ASLI lady official got agitated with my colleague, a freelance ITV cameraman who had followed another cameraman to a holding room for Lady Warsi.

The ASLI official shouted at the cameraman: “Who are you? Why are you in this room. I’m the host and I did not invite you. Go out! Go out!”

I explained to her and the British High Commission officials that we only there to cover the event and had some questions for Baroness Warsi.

To threats by the British diplomats, I responded to them by saying that they should not threaten media men on Malaysian soil and behave as foreign diplomats here.

At that point he grabbed our camera and demanded that he see what we had recorded. He kept insisting and pressured us by grabbing the camera and trying to operate it.

At that point freelance ITV producer Selvanaban Mariappen took out his I-Phone and started recording the high-handed action by the British diplomat.

The diplomat turned to Selvanaban and demanded that he stop recording their actions. He directed Selva to erase what he had recorded on the I-Phone and camera. Selva refused.

I was shocked to hear a senior British diplomat say that we were on private property and he could arrange to get us removed.

When we did not yield to his threats, he called the General Manager of the hotel who told us politely to go down and have a drink in the lobby.

Security officials showed us the way to lobby and we went there and dispatched the arrival shots of Lady Warsi to ITV London from our laptops

The British officials came down 30 minutes later and negotiated. They demanded we wipe out all the scenes of their high handed action in grabbing our cameras and threatening us.

Finally, he said if we erased all our recordings, a conditional interview would be granted where Baroness Warsi would give her statement.

We waited another two hours and she finally gave her interview which was carried on ITV news and picked up even by BBC and several media internationally.

This is a story that needs to be told because even diplomats have not learned how to handle the media, and if they had, they must have forgotten all the lessons on media relations.

The writer is a freelance coordinator and reporter for ITV, CNN, BBC, German, Australian TV networks and TIME magazine. He has 26 years of experience as a journalist


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