Journalists’ body regrets Guan Eng’s claim over unfair coverage when he was CM

Lim Guan Eng surrounded by reporters during a press conference.

GEORGE TOWN: The National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJ) today regretted a claim by a minister that funds from a 1MDB-linked group to three Penang press groups had influenced their reporting on him previously.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had claimed recently that he had to contend with unfavourable coverage from the Chinese press in Penang when he was chief minister before the May 2013 general election.

He had said a total of RM150,000 given to three groups of reporters and photographers by a 1MDB-linked body in 2013 had caused strained relations between him and the Chinese press then.

Speaking to FMT, NUJ general secretary Chin Sung Chew said it was not aware of this apparent “feud” between Lim and press outlets in the northern region that had caused “unprofessional” reports against him as a result.

He said the NUJ, which has about 1,300 members, had often reiterated that all journalists must uphold their code of ethics when covering any events and that they should stay neutral in their reporting.

“We can’t simply go looking for money.

“NUJ, as a registered trade union, can only solicit funds or sponsorship with the prior approval of the Registrar of Trade Unions. I am not too sure about the other press-interest groups.

“As for donations, anyone is free to accept them, but press groups must make sure the donors do not ask for favours in return.”

He said editors, on the other hand, ought to ensure there is no undue influence in their reporters’ coverage and play their role in ensuring fair reporting.

Chin said moving on from the issue of funds, politicians, too, ought to take the heat from criticism emanating from public interest issues as it was the press’ role to highlight matters of public interest, regardless of whether it was good or bad.

“We are made to understand that there are some quarters who are unhappy with certain news coverage, especially by local Chinese dailies.

“But it is highly inappropriate for them to intervene in the newspaper’s internal affairs and editorial guidelines to get your way,” he said without elaborating.

Chin said NUJ has about 300 members who are from the Chinese dailies, which include Sin Chew Daily, Nanyang Siang Pau and Kwong Wah Yit Poh (Penang).

On June 29, Lim had recalled tumultuous times dealing with the press in Penang when he was CM, saying at one point, he thought he would lose in the general election due to the unfavourable coverage given to him by the Chinese dailies.

He said it was apparent that a few Chinese press reporters in Penang were dead set against him.

Lim was commenting on reports that three journalists’ groups in Penang had received a total of RM150,000 from a 1MDB-related outfit before the May 2013 general election.

This was also in light of the MACC announcement of civil forfeiture suits against 41 entities and individuals said to have received money misappropriated from 1MDB.

In April 2013, it was reported that the Penang Press Club (PPC), the Penang Journalists and Photographers Association (Pewaju) and the Journalists’ Union of North Malaya (JUNM) had received RM50,000 each from the 1Malaysia Penang Welfare Club.

On June 25, PPC had said it would table a formal resolution to return the RM50,000 it had received back to the government.