Police, EC and MACC should investigate bribery of journalists

Kuala Lumpur: The authorities should immediately investigate reports that officers from the Terengganu state Information Ministry had offered RM300 cash to journalists covering the Kuala Terengganu by-election over the weekend.

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is disappointed that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has decided not to investigate the case because they said the reporters could not identify the giver.
“This reflects the lack of initiative on the part of the MACC to respond to what is clearly an attempt to bribe journalists covering the by-election. This is unacceptable, as the authorities should be able to easily identify who the culprits were. Are we to accept this excuse from an agency that is to undertake a huge task of investigating corruption?
“This approach makes a mockery of the so-called reforms towards a corrupt-free society that was declared by the Prime Minister in his last minute attempts to prove that he was doing something on the issue,” said CIJ executive director Gayathry Venkiteswaran.
Gayathry said the authorities should take the matter seriously and especially the report lodged by the two journalists who acted immediately upon discovering that they were given cash in an envelope.
CIJ commends the two journalists, Chen Shaua Fui and Chan Wei See from online media MerdekaReview.com for lodging police reports immediately after receiving the cash.
The journalists are not only driven to report a criminal activity but are serious in upholding high ethical practices by rejecting any form of inducements.
In the incident, reporters at the media centre who were covering the by-election were asked to list their names, organisations and telephone numbers before being given an envelope containing six RM50 notes. Some of the journalists were reported to have returned the money to the staff at the centre, who claimed they did not know the giver. The ministry has denied making any payments to the journalists.
“The Information Minister boasted in October last year that there was no envelope journalism in Malaysia where journalists and editors are paid to highlight certain stories. How ironic that the alleged bribery over the weekend has taken place within the state information department’s media centre.
“We call for an investigation by the Election Commission (EC), the police and MACC to identify the givers and that action be taken immediately,” she added.
While there are no documented cases of bribery of media personnel, influence over newsroom decisions come in the form of laws and political pressure. Among the more critical laws are the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Communication and Multimedia Act to ensure  that the ruling government has ways to penalise the media if the coverage is critical of them.