Utusan suspends senior reporter pending inquiry

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal and Melissa Chi, The Malaysian Insider

Utusan Malaysia has gone ahead and suspended senior reporter Hata Wahari pending an inquiry for being highly critical of the Umno-owned daily’s opinion pieces.

It is understood that the suspension will officially take effect this coming Monday, January 17 which is the first day of the domestic inquiry.

“After taking into consideration the seriousness of misconduct allegations against you, the company has decided to suspend your service effective January 17, 2011 until the domestic inquiry on your actions has been completed,” said Utusan’s suspension letter addressed to Hata.

The letter, which was sent to Hata on January 11, stated that the senior reporter would be denied entry into any Utusan office throughout the course of the inquiry, and needed to seek permission from the company management if he wanted to enter the office.

“During the period of your suspension, you are required to be in a place where the company management can contact you, and you are not allowed to leave your neighbourhood,” said the letter.

Hata, who is also president of the National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJ) has been attacked by his own company for issuing statements to news portals The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini, Merdeka Review, and The Sun newspaper between September 21 and October 14 last year.

In an immediate response, NUJ secretary-general V. Anbalagan said that it was “normal procedure” for employers to suspend their staff pending a public inquiry.

He said however that the union will adopt a “one step at a time” approach first before taking any further action.