BBC’s worldwide apology exposes Malaysian govt’s image

(HARAKAH DAILY) – After spending some 19.6 million Euro (RM83.8 mil) to boost his administration’s image abroad, an apology issued by the British Broadcasting Corporation over the weekend for airing programmes on Malaysia produced under suspicious circumstances has instead threatened to undermine prime minister Najib Razak’s reputation.

In expressing its regret, BBC specifically mentioned eight programmes on Malaysia which it aired between February 2009 and July 2011.

Last year, following an expose by whistleblower website Sarawak Report and British daily The Independent, the media corporation suspended all programming from London-based production company, FBC Media, which since 2009 produced BBC documentaries dealing with Malaysia and controversial issues such as the country’s contentious palm oil industry and its treatment of rainforests and indigenous people, all of which were in praise of the Malaysian government. The controversy also cost global news channel CNBC’s flagship business show World Business, which was axed soon after details emerged of its links with FBC Media.

Najib had also admitted engaging FBC Media for three years from 2007 in multi-million contract for “consultancy services, advice and management of a communication campaign” which included the said documentaries.

FBC Media is also said to have worked for US-backed former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Sarawak Report had earlier revealed how Sarawak chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud had paid “a crooked, British-based” public relations firm a sum of RM15 million annually to conduct global media campaign, with a view to dismissing allegations of massive corruption involving Taib and his administration.

‘Najib should also say sorry’

In its statement broadcast yesterday, BBC, without naming FBC Media, said it had violated its own rule aimed at protecting its editorial integrity.

“This meant there was a potential conflict of interest, though the BBC was not aware of it when the programmes were broadcast,” reads the statement, broadcast in BBC World News across the globe in four time slots worldwide.

In his response, DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng said it was shameful for Najib’s administration to resort to “such tactics worthy of African tinpot dictators in trying to whitewash its image.”

“What’s worse, this was all done at taxpayer’s expense,” he added.

Urging Najib to emulate BBC, Lim said he should also apologise for the fiasco.

“(Najib) should direct his Prime Minister’s Office to apologise for paying RM84 million to to burnish the Najib administration’s image on global broadcast networks just as the BBC is apologizing for accepting payments in exchange for a positive image for countries with a poor record of democratic practices and corruption,” said Lim.