Another television producer - this time from RTM’s TV2 - has claimed political interference in his work after his documentary on the Bakun Dam was taken off the air allegedly due to Barisan Nasional concerns over it chances in the upcoming Sibu by-election.
In a blog post today, the producer of the documentary, Chou Z Lam (left), revealed that the show was taken off the air under the direct instruction of RTM’s chief broadcast executive Ibrahim Yahya.
"RTM’s newsroom chief executive Jumat Engson said the documentary was taken off the air because it had sensitive elements that could be harmful (for BN) in the upcoming Sibu by-election as well as the Sarawak state elections," read the blog post.
Chou was instead told that the documentary would be postponed to ‘a more appropriate time’.
Chou’s allegation comes barely a week after award-winning journalist and producer Joshua Wong quit his position in ntv7 following what he said was constant political interference in his show, the last straw being a ban on discussing the recent Hulu Selangor by-election.
Chou’s nine-part documentary was for a RTM2 programme entitled "Galeri Mandarin Nasional" and was supposed to have run from last Monday to May 7 in the 12.20pm to 12.30pm slot. The first two episodes have been aired.
‘People first’ or ‘politics first’?
However, the following episode, to have been aired today, was taken off the air. It focused on the social impact of the building of the Bakun Dam on the natives of Belaga who were forced to be relocated to Sungai Asap and Sungai Koyan in 1998.
"This is another news interference by the government during and after the Hulu Selangor by-election," Chou said on his blog.
"I feel deeply sorry for the people of Sungai Asap whom I had interviewed, as their problems and voices are being prevented from being heard by the majority of the people both in East and West Malaysia," he added.
Chou said that the move was totally against Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s ‘1Malaysia’ slogan of ‘People first’.
"If the Sibu by-election and the Sarawak state election are reasons for the show to be taken off the air, then what RTM is implementing is actually ‘politics first’", he said.
‘No such orders’
Chou said he had sought the help of deputy information, unity, culture and arts minister Heng Sai Kee to reverse the RTM directive but was told that the ministry would not interfere in RTM affairs.
Chou through his blog appealed to Ibrahim (left) to reconsider his decision for the sake of RTM’s credibility and the natives of Sarawak.
When contacted, Ibrahim denied that he had ordered the documentary to be taken off the air.
"I did not give such orders [...] you should ask Chou instead," said Ibrahim.