AS the 15th General Elections (GE15) looms, the role of the media will once again play a crucial role in influencing voters – especially fence-sitters – about who would best represent their interests.
And as history will have it, certain political parties and politicians are “flexing” their muscles once more to put their people in influential media organisations to dictate editorial policy, hence swaying news coverage in their favour.
The News Straits Times (NST) appears to be the latest victim of such a move, following a top-level management change that has riled up feathers among staff in the 177-year-old English daily.
“This is very evident as the NST only recently underwent a revamp and the staff is settling in while preparations are in place for coverage in GE15,” reads an anonymous letter on the matter that was sent to select media today.
What perturbs those in the paper most, the letter goes on, is the fact that the new person joining the top rank is “inexperienced” and “does not possess the capability to head such an organisation”.
The appointment was apparently done by an official from Media Prima Bhd (under which NST and its printing press are parked) who was “advised” to do so by certain other politicians who informed him that the current top man in the NST was not “doing enough” for UMNO.
“News editors and journalists alike are very upset over this move and are appealing to the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to put a stop to this injustice,” the letter added.
“Many believe that this is being done without the blessings of the PM, who has always been a firm believer in freedom of the press and in the ‘non-interference policy’.”
“Signature campaign started”
Some journalists have also begun a signature campaign to oppose any changes in their newsdesk seen as “purely politically motivated”.
The letter pointed out that such a move is “totally against” the concept of press freedom, where the media is not to be dictated and instructed by any politician or political party.
“We are appealing to Ismail to please put a stop to this injustice. Let us do our work peacefully and not have our hands tied by political interference,” the letter concludes.
While the letter did not name anyone at the NST, The Vibes reported that News Straits Times Press (NSTP) group editor Ahmad Lokman Mansor is due to be removed from his role due to alleged interference by UMNO bigwigs.
The Vibes named former second finance minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani and UMNO Supreme Council member Datuk Seri Ab Rauf Yusoh as those requesting Lokman’s ouster.
The news portal also reported that Lokman will be replaced by Media Prima executive editor Farrah Naz Abd Karim by Oct 1, with the former given the option to return to the NST’s business desk or leave the company altogether.
Lokman is largely credited as the driving force behind the new editorial changes at the NST, which includes more hard-hitting editorials and neutral reporting, according to The Vibes.
The Vibes also confirmed that an internal petition to Ismail calling for the management change to be aborted is being circulated.
In a statement this evening, NSTP confirmed Farah’s appointment as group editor effective Thursday (Sept 15), a decision which it said was “in line with its strategy to further enhance its content offering”.
While the statement did not make reference to the issues raised by The Vibes or the anonymous letter, NSTP group managing editor Mustapha Kamil Mohd Janor said: “As a responsible English daily, NST has, in recent years, strived to operate independently of any outsider influencers, including political influence.
“As a member of a public-listed company, the group is governed by strict corporate governance and transparency and an able board of directors,” he added, not saying more on the matter. – Sept 13, 2022
Main photo credit: NST