Saturday, February 25, 2006

NST report: ZAM " softened dramatically " ...

Zainuddin calls for details from RTM
Koh Lay Chin KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24, New Straits Times

Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin said today he had directed Radio Televisyen Malaysia to provide the necessary information to the authorities on the airing of a news clip which showed the controversial caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Close-ups of the caricatures were displayed on RTM TV2’s Mandarin news on Feb 3.

Zainuddin said he had taken steps to ensure such incidents would not happen again.

"And I think what has happened in this short time has made us more aware about freedom of the Press with social responsibility," he told a Press conference after launching Fiesta Merbuk 2006 at the KL Tower.

Zainuddin softened dramatically his earlier scathing views about media which depicted caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

RTM had been in the forefront seeking action against the New Straits Times for publishing a cartoon which, although not one of the 12 caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad which has inflamed the Islamic world, was seen by some sections of society here as offensive.

The cartoon that the NST used was published in the International Herald Tribune which is printed in some Islamic countries, such as Lebanon, and distributed widely in the Islamic world.

Today, some newspapers revealed that RTM itself had screened clips prominently showing the offending caricatures on TV2 on Feb 3.

Asked about his criticisms of the NST on the issue when RTM’s faux pas was more serious, Zainuddin said he would not be repeating anything that he had said in the past.

The Information Minister had conciliatory words and plenty of smiles and laughter.On NST’s explanation and apology on the Non Sequitur comic strip, Zainuddin said: "I think that’s a good response to the reaction that came out. And I welcome the statement by the Prime Minister in Penang which views the apology as resolving the publication of the cartoon."

Zainuddin said the whole affair had been "good for the country" as it meant a continual process of learning about Press freedom and its do’s and don’ts.

Was he still upset with the NST? "No, no, I am not," he said.

Instead, Zainuddin said the NST would be the first newspaper he would visit as Information Minister.He wanted to see old and new friends as he "missed journalism very much".

Asked who he wanted to visit specifically, he said: "Many, I have many old friends. (Former NSTP group editor-in- chief Datuk) Kalimullah (Hassan) is my friend. He wrote a very nice piece when I was promoted to become the adviser of the Utusan Malaysia".

He refused to comment on past statements where he had expressed disappointment with the NST and was critical of Kalimullah, saying that he did not want to talk about the past.

"I don’t want to repeat anything. It’s the beginning of a new era. I welcome what Datuk Seri Abdullah said, it is selesai (resolved)," he said.

"We look to the future, for harmony in the Press, for good relations, you know."

When asked by a reporter if he had called for the sacking of the top editors of the NST Group at a closed-door Umno information bureau meeting a day before he was appointed minister, Zainuddin deflected the question with a laugh and said: "You are naughty."

At 66, ZAM has finally grown up


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