The uproar over The Star’s controversial front page gets louder.
- Two senior editors suspended
- Investigated under Sedition Act 1948
- PAS and Perkasa want harsher punishment
Two senior editors at The Star have been suspended over its inappropriate front page on Saturday which had a picture of Muslims praying alongside a story headlined ‘Malaysian terrorist leader‘.
The newspaper said editor-in-chief Datuk Leanne Goh Lee Yen and executive editor Dorairaj Nadason were today suspended from their duties pending investigations into the incident. Star Media Group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai will manage editorial operations in the interim.
Dorairaj was one of four editors who had gone to the home ministry yesterday after being summoned to give their statements. The other three were specialist editor M Shanmugam and executive editors Brian Martin and Rozaid Abdul Rahman.
The editors involved have pledged their full cooperation with the relevant authorities in the investigations.
The Home Ministry issued a show-cause letter to the newspaper on Monday, giving the publication seven days to explain why action should not be taken against it under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984. In a statement, it said the layout could lead to confusion among members of the public, cause misunderstandings, and give rise to prejudice towards Muslims. It added that the layout had indirectly mocked Islam.
Earlier today, Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said the daily was being investigated under the Sedition Act 1948.
Despite The Star apologising for its “poor judgment”, saying it should have been more sensitive towards the feelings of its Muslim readers, the juxtaposition led to complaints that Muslims were being portrayed negatively.
Groups such as PAS and Perkasa have refused to accept the apology.
PAS information chief Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi, who branded The Star’s front page as “extreme and rude”, said an apology was not enough.
“We were waiting for the government to take firm action on The Star but instead, it got away with a warning letter,” PAS vice-president Iskandar Abdul Samad said, after making a police report against the newspaper today.
He urged the ministry to punish the daily accordingly for the front-page blunder.
He said the incident was a serious matter as it had happened in a multiracial country with many different religions, adding that preserving religious harmony among Malaysians was a top priority.
Perkasa called on the home ministry to suspend the daily’s licence for a year, while Johor Umno assemblyman Tengku Putra Haron Aminurrashid Jumat demanded that the owners of The Star revamp the editorial team to better manage matters relating to Islam.
Meanwhile, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers’ Media Freedom Committee of Malaysia is proposing the formation of a media council to allow greater self-regulation within the news industry. It said that such a council could formulate guidelines on ethical reporting and act as an ombudsman for public complaints against the media.
This would prevent arbitrary action against journalists and media houses by the government, and ensure the high-quality journalism the public deserved, it said in a statement today.
The proposed media council will consist of representatives from the print, online and broadcast media.
“The formation of a media council, industry guidelines and ombudsman body would raise standards in journalism.
“Beyond that, it would educate the Malaysian public on the role of the media as well as ways to seek remedy for ethical infringements in a developed and democratic society, without recourse to punishment from the state,” it said.
It added that The Star had acted correctly in immediately addressing its audience’s concerns.
“It took corrective measures and need not be further censured.
“We are concerned that building pressure will drive the home ministry to act unfairly against the daily, despite the newspaper’s proactive measures in rectifying its mistake.”
Suspending The Star’s publication licence would also affect the livelihoods of hundreds of staff members, including support staff who are faultless in the matter, it said.
Earlier report: May 29, The Star Issued Show-Cause Letter over Front-Page Blunder