Khalil Yaakob should apologise for doctoring a CNN film in the nightly 90-second propaganda footage to show a Taliban execution of an Afghan woman in burqa  at the Kabul football field being shot in the head three times at close range

Media Conference Statement 2
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Last Friday, the Information Minister, Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob said he will not apologise to PAS for airing the 90-second television clip picturing Barisan Alternative as wanting a Taliban Malaysia, with PAS as the chief proponent and Parti Keadilan Nasional as the abettor, declaring that his ministry would continue to air the clip as it was “relevant and topical”.

He said the clip was “among its news items for broadcast” and claimed that his Ministry had received many letters to the public asking it to “come out with more news like this”. (New Straits Times 12.1.2002)

It is a national embarrassment that Khalil just could not distinguish the difference between news from propaganda, and could blatantly insist  that the nightly 90-second propaganda footage aired during prime-time news in the various television channels in different languages for nearly three weeks is indeed news.

Can Khalil define “news”?  Can he give one single example in any country in the world, whether now or in previous eras, where any government dare to claim that the same clip aired nightly for three weeks was  news and not propaganda?

Khalil should either ask the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to rename his portfolio as Ministry of Propaganda or he and his Ministry should show greater professionalism and subtlety in packaging the Barisan Nasional propaganda without causing embarassment not only to himself and his Ministry but to the government and all Malaysians in claiming propaganda as news!

As the nightly multiple airing of the 90-second footage for the past three weeks is clearly a political commercial of the Barisan Nasional, the Accountant-General and the Auditor-General must be prepared to be queried publicly for dereliction of duty if they do not ensure that Barisan Nasional pays into government coffers the prime-time commercial rates for prime-time TV news - which clearly will run into millions of ringgit!  Why should the government lose  millions of ringgit in revenue if Barisan Nasional wants to air political commercials during prime-time news?

In this connection, the 90-second Barisan Nasional propaganda footage is  dishonest and violates all ethical and professional principles of  broadcasting. I call on Khalil Yaakob to apologise for doctoring a CNN film in the nightly 90-second propaganda footage to show a Taliban execution of an Afghan woman in burqa  at the Kabul football field being shot in the head three times at close range.

The Taliban executioner had done his ugly deed with one rifle shot at the head of the Afghan woman in burqa at close range, as was shown in the original CNN film, but in the Barisan Nasional propaganda footage, the Afghan woman in burqa had to be shot three times in the head when it is clear even to a child that no one can survive any single  shot in the head at such  close range!

The purpose of the doctoring of the CNN film of the Taliban execution of the Afghan woman in burqa so as to show three close-range shots in the head, with the woman’s head rising instead of going down in the first two shots, is to dramatise the execution but it shows the utter dishonesty and lack of professionalism in the production of the footage - which does not qualify it for news or even honest and truthful propaganda!

If the Information Ministry can so unashamedly doctor films for airing on the television channels night after night, what is it incapable of to serve the Barisan Nasional objectives?

Malaysians are reminded of the 1990 general election when Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who  was then the  Semangat 46 President and open challenger to UMNO and Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad,  was shown in  last few days of the campaign repeatedly over television with the Kadazan headgear falsely alleging that it bore the symbol of the cross and was final and ultimate proof that Razaleigh had sold out the Malay honour and race and betrayed the Islamic religion!

Is Khalil trying to emulate the 1990 propaganda scam of Razaleigh wearing the cross with the propaganda footage of  a Taliban execution of a  Afghan woman in burqa being shot three times in the head at close-range?

The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and all Barisan Nasional Ministers have called for a clean and honest campaign in the Indera Kayangan by-election. Is the nightly 90-second propaganda footage camouflaged as prime-time news an example of such “clean and honest” election campaign by the Barisan Nasional?

During the Indera Kayangan by-election nomination on 10th January, 2001, virtually the entire Cabinet, except for the Prime Minister, descended on Kangar.  Present at the nomination were 20 Cabinet Ministers and their deputies as well  nine mentris besar and chief ministers.  In the past five days, Indera Kayangan was crawling with Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Mentris Besars and Chief Ministers.  During this period, the Ministries of Transport, Health, Human Resources and Housing and Local Government have virtually transferred their headquarters from Kuala Lumpur to Kangar!

Can the Chief Secretary and the Auditor-General calculate the Ministerial man-hours lost as a result of the Indera Kayangan by-election, do a costing and bill them to the respective Barisan Nasional component parties?

Why should the  national and state governments virtually grind to a halt just because of a state assembly by-election in Perlis?

This is a measure not of clean and honest politicking but dishonest and dirty campaigning in Malaysian elections and politics and the deplorable blurring of the important lines of distinction between public duties and private (including political party) functions.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman