The Middle East’s leading TV News Service, Al Jazeera, has given its own appalled reaction to the discovery that its coverage of Saturday’s Bersih 3.0 rally may have also have been doctored by Malaysia’s Astro satellite station.
In an uncompromising statement a spokesman today declared:
“We have not been censored in this way by another distribution platform anywhere in the world.”
The statement has added to the growing international outrage over Malaysia’s authoritarian censorship rules, in a country that poses as a democracy.
The BBC, who discovered its own report of the day’s events was covertly edited, has launched its own legal and editorial enquiry into the incident and is said to be taking the matter “extremely seriously indeed”, according to one insider.
The Qatar-based Al Jazeera meanwhile, now has reason to believe that its extensive coverage of the Bersih rally was also interfered with.
The station had sent it’s English language reporter Harry Fawcett onto the ground in KL, covering the rally and providing on the spot interviews.
Much of his material was dramatic and showed a number of cases of excessive use of force by the police against demonstrators.
As he spoke to camera, police officers could be seen hovering at the reporter’s shoulder and eventually he reported that they smashed his equipment to the ground – one of several attacks reported against news crews by police.
Fawcett’s report had concluded on an even handed note, suggesting that both sides had matters to regret over the direction of events. Yet the station is believed to have received information from a number of sources that Astro censored its coverage.
Today Al Jazeera’s English Spokesman released this official statement:
“We will be asking Astro for an explanation as to why Harry Fawcett’s report of the rally in Malaysia was apparently censored. If Astro are indeed saying that it breached “local content regulations”, they would need to outline exactly what these alleged breaches were and how they arrived at their decision.
“As we understand it, the censoring was not made clear to viewers when it happened. We have had no communication on this incident from Astro either.
“Our news report was a factual account of events that day, and intrusion in our editorial process is unwarranted. We have not been censored in this way by another distribution platform anywhere in the world.”
Al Jazeera’s accusation that Malaysia’s censorship system is the most authoritarian they have experienced anywhere in the world is a particularly stinging indictment of a regime that has spent hundreds of millions on cultivating its international image.