Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is this really happening in China?

I honestly could not believe my eyes when I read this today. Is this really happening in China? Of all nations, China? Where the communist government has muzzled the press and even the Internet? Where those who criticised the government have been sent to jail?

If even China is opening up, what then of Malaysia? Would Prime Minister Najib ever announce that Malaysians should criticise the government?

China's premier says public should criticize govt

BEIJING (AP) - China's premier has urged citizens to voice their criticisms of the government and speak out about injustice during an unprecedented visit to the country's top petition bureau, where people are allowed to file complaints against officials, state media reported.

The official Xinhua News Agency said late Tuesday that it was the first time since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 that a premier has met with ordinary petitioners.

China Central Television quoted Wen Jiabao as telling visitors and staff at the bureau in Beijing on Monday afternoon that the government must "create conditions that allow citizens to criticize and supervise the government, and enable government to responsibly resolve the problems and difficulties of the masses."

China is extremely wary of dissent. The government doesn't allow protests and routinely censors the media and internet of any content that is potentially destabilizing or overly critical of the leadership.

Outspoken critics of the communist regime, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, have been jailed on vague subversion charges.

Wen has spoken before about giving the public greater freedom to voice anger and frustration over social problems such as corruption. The comments have been interpreted by some as a signal that the leadership wanted to more aggressively pursue democratic reforms, but they have yet to be followed up by concrete initiatives.

A human rights activist said Wednesday that Wen's high-profile visit to the bureau would likely result in more petitions being filed, which was unfortunate since the petition system is widely seen as an outmoded and ineffective way of resolving grievances.

Human Rights Watch researcher Phelim Kine said in an e-mail that Wen's public encouragement of the petitioning system would "likely only attract greater numbers of Chinese citizens, particularly the marginalized rural residents ... to seek redress through a broken petitioning system which rather than resolves past abuses, continually creates new ones."

In China, local officials are under pressure to have no petitions from their area, since their performance is linked to the number of grievances filed - a sign of instability - from their locality. As a result, petitioners are sometimes detained by thugs before they can file their petitions and held in illegal jails that are covertly run by officials.

Kine cited a Chinese government-backed study from 2004 that indicated that only a tiny fraction - 0.2 percent - of a sample of 623 petitioners successfully resolved their problems through the petitioning system. - AP

Saturday, January 1, 2011

NUJ blames racist editors for Utusan Malaysia's decline


KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 – National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Hata Wahari blamed Utusan Malaysia editors and what he called their racial rhetoric for the daily’s declining sale.

He also called on the authorities to act against Utusan Malaysia editors for fanning racial sentiment in its reports.

“Utusan Malaysia which used to enjoy daily circulation of 350,000 has now become government’s propaganda tool in playing up racial issues and creating discord among the people of various races,” said Hata (picture) in a statement today.

“NUJ Malaysia also calls on the authorities to act against the chief editor and other editors of Utusan Malaysia for undermining racial harmony in the country,” he added.

Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) figures for the full year ended June 30, 2010 showed that Utusan Malaysia’s circulation dropped from 181,346 to 170,558, or a drop of 5.9 per cent.

“NUJ Malaysia hopes that the chief editor and editors of Utusan Malaysia will revert to the objectives of the newspaper during the early days of its publication,” said Hata who is also an Utusan Malaysia journalist.

The Utusan Group was founded in Singapore in 1939 by Malay intellectuals including the republic’s first president Yusof  Ishak who were critical of the then colonial government.

The company is now controlled by Umno and Utusan Malaysia has been accused by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders promoting racial hatred in its reporting.

It had accused Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng of being anti-Malay and recently launched an attack against DAP’s Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching for alleged failure dress appropriately in her visit to a mosque.

“Failure of the authorities to take action against Utusan Malaysia chief editor and editor would only show that they are consenting to the agenda of creating racial discord in the country by a racist and undignified newspaper,” said Hata.

He also urged editors of other mainstream dailies that have suffered declining circulation to stop from being government propaganda tools.

“The union also asks editors of mainstream media especially Utusan Malaysia, New Straits Times, Berita Harian and the The Star to play the role of disseminating information to the public and not as propaganda machinery of the government, political parties, or any individual,” said Hata.

The ABC report also showed that The Star’s circulation dropping from 295,479 to 286,409 (-3.1 per cent), the New Straits Times from 120,770 to 109,341 (-9.5 per cent), and Berita Harian from 183,187 to 160,597 (-12.3 per cent).

Sales of the three newspapers and Utusan Malaysia have been falling these past five years, with all but The Star registering drops of 20 per cent or more between 2005 and 2009.

So-called “light reading” newspapers like Malay-language Harian Metro and Kosmo, on the other hand, continue to go from strength to strength, posting higher sales numbers this past year on top of already impressive circulation numbers.

Kosmo was the biggest winner with a massive 32.9 per cent jump in circulation from 129,633 last year to 172,252 this year. Harian Metro also managed to chalk up an impressive 11.8 per cent rise in circulation to 378,354.

The weekend editions of both newspapers, Kosmo Ahad and Metro Ahad, saw similar increases of 35.1 per cent and 11.5 per cent, respectively.

All Chinese-language papers managed slight single-digit bumps in sales this past year, with the exception of Guang Ming Daily which slipped by 2.67 per cent to 95,158.

Circulation for Sin Chew Daily went up from 374,757 to 382,578 (2.1 per cent), China Press from 159,034 to 160,841 (1.1 per cent) and Oriental Daily News from 97,882 to 103,827 (6.1 per cent).

Free paper The Sun recorded a 4.38 per cent boost in circulation from 287,935 to 300,512.