Don’t make media your scapegoat, Abu Zahar told

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Failure to allow questions from journalists akin to denying the public’s right to information.

Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (ACAB) chairman Abu Zahar Ujang has come under fire for trying to pin the blame on the media for the furore that followed his statements on top graft buster Azam Baki’s shareholding.

Klang MP Charles Santiago said the issue had nothing to do with misreporting.

“The six (ACAB) members are saying very clearly that they don’t agree with him,” Santiago told FMT.

“His refusal to take questions indicates that he may be trying to hide something, otherwise, he’d be quite open with his statements.

“This is a matter of accountability, transparency, and good governance. He is disrespecting his own organisation by not following the principles that it stands for.”

At his last press conference on Jan 11, Abu Zahar said inaccurate and incomprehensive news reports were the reason why the six board members had distanced themselves from his earlier statement clearing Azam of any wrongdoing.

Santiago’s criticism of Abu Zahar comes a day after his party colleague, Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng, asked the ACAB chairman why it took him nearly a week to raise the issue of alleged misreporting of his press conference.

Meanwhile, DAP’s Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi said the six ACAB members would not have formed their opinions merely on news reports.

“Instead, Abu Zahar should explain whether the others were informed of his Jan 6 statement in advance and consulted them before speaking to the press,” she said.

Separately, the Centre for Independent Journalism said it was “extremely disappointed” with Abu Zahar’s actions.

Its executive director, Wathshlah Naidu, said blaming the media, or the failure to allow questions from journalists, was akin to denying the public’s right to information.

“It defeats the purpose of holding a press conference when only one voice or message is being broadcast without the necessary checks and balances derived through reporters’ questions.

“There is a high expectation for public officials to answer questions by the media with eloquence and transparency, even when they might not have an answer ready,” she said.

National Union of Journalists president Farah Marshita Abdul Patah said if the chairman believed that certain media statements were untrue or inaccurate, he should identify these statements and clarify them.

“Evading questions from the media is denying access to information. This will just negatively affect various parties,” she told FMT. – FMT

Earlier reports:

Jan 11, Abu Zahar: Media did not give full picture of Jan 5 press conference on Azam Baki

Jan 11, MACC graft advisers issued statement behind Abu Zahar’s back

Jan 8, Six MACC advisory board members dispute Abu Zahar’s ‘clearing’ of Azam Baki

Jan 8, Abu Zahar must resign

Jan 7, Pakatan: Don’t just probe Azam Baki, but also Abu Zahar, past MACC chiefs

Jan 3, Gomez accuses Abu Zahar of covering up for Azam Baki

Dec 30, Prove Azam BAki’s alleged wrongs, MACC advisory board chief tells Gomez