CNBC and BBC suspend television programmes over Sarawak whistleblower allegations – Bruno Manser Fund demands apology

By Bruno Manser Fund

Leading global television networks accused of illegally promoting corrupt Malaysian politicians – Sarawak Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, had bought himself airtime to spread blatant lies over Borneo rainforest logging.

CNBC, the American satellite and cable television news channel, has withdrawn its international business show, “World Business”, following allegations that the show’s production company, FBC (“Fact Based Communications”), was doubling as a PR firm for corrupt Malaysian politicians. Meanwhile, the British BBC, another FBC customer, has suspended broadcasting all FBC-produced programmes and launched an internal investigation.

Last Monday, Sarawak Report, a news website run by Clare Rewcastle, the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, revealed that the UK-based FBC Group had been paid 5 million US dollars by Abdul Taib Mahmud (“Taib”), Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, to promote the politician’s battered international reputation. Other payments to FBC have apparently been made by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, and by Sime Darby, a palm oil group responsible for clear-cutting large tracts of tropical rainforest in Malaysian Borneo.

On 27 March 2011, the CNBC’s “World Business” show broadcast an interview with Taib, in which he claimed that 80 per cent of the state’s forests were “almost intact” tropical rainforest. The statement was broadcast uncommented despite being in stark contrast to all independent analysis and to Taib’s own earlier statements. In April 2001, Taib publicly admitted that 90 percent of the state’s harvestable trees had been felled.

By broadcasting sponsored news and current affairs programmes, the CNBC and the BBC appear to have breached British and American media regulations.
The Bruno Manser Fund is shocked to learn that leading global television networks are broadcasting shows that are unlawfully sponsored by corrupt Malaysian politicians and by companies responsible for the destruction of Borneos’s unique tropical rainforests.

We demand that CNBC and the BBC apologize to the public over the broadcasting of sponsored FBC shows that are distorting the facts. In particular, we are asking CNBC to send a team of investigative reporters to Sarawak to accurately report on the extent of the Taib regime’s corruption and the rapid destruction of Borneo’s natural environment.

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