Came across these two news reports at the Star on Friday 11th September ’09 (online version, not print) which, at first blush, looked promising:

MCA to MCMC: Back off on Malaysiakini (published 2:22pm)

Kuala Lumpur: The repeated visits by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to the office of news portal Malaysiakini could be misconstrued as harassment aimed at stifling the independence of the media, says the MCA.

The MCA’s information and communication bureau spokesman Lee Wei Kiat said that the party is concerned that the Commission, as a regulating body, will be perceived as attempting to silence the press.

He noted the similarity to the controversy of Sin Chew Daily journalist Tan Hoon Cheng who was detained under the Internal Security Act for merely carrying out her job after she had reported on apparently seditious statements made by Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Ahmad Ismail.

In a statement on Friday, Lee noted that the Commission had visited Malaysiakini’s office three times in the last week and had interviewed 12 of its staff.

Lee said MCA is calling for the Commission to allow Malaysiakini’s media crew to continue carrying out their duties professionally and uninterrupted by marathon interview sessions.

Malaysiakini’s editors, journalists and technical crew have been co-operative with the officers from the Commission.

“The reporters and photographers are earning an honest living reporting the news,” said Lee.

He added that the Commission should take into account the Prime Minister’s stand on Aug 7 that the Government will not filter or censor the Internet.

Lee also urged the authorities and regulating bodies to be fair in their investigations.

The visits were part of the Commission’s probe into the online publication after it refused to delete two videos related to the controversial Aug 28 “cow head protest” against the Selangor government’s decision to relocate a Hindu temple from Section 19 to Section 23 in Shah Alam.

The first video was of the protestors dragging the decapitated head of cow, then proceeding to stamp and spit on it. Hindus consider the cow a sacred animal.

One of the protest leaders was also reported to have threatened bloodshed if the Selangor government proceeded with its relocation plan.

The second video is of a press conference held by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein after he had met with the protestors.

The Commission sent a letter to Malaysiakini claiming that the portal was in breach of Section 211/233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 for displaying videos of the anti-temple protest and the Hishammuddin press conference.

It said it had received complaints from the public that the videos were annoying and disturbing.

Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan has refused to take down the videos, saying they were news items and of public interest.

Don’t harass website, MCMC told (published 10:03pm)

Kuala Lumpur: Repeated probes by the the Malaysian Communications and Multi- media Commission (MCMC) on news portal Malaysiakini could be misconstrued as harassment aimed at stifling the independence of the media.

MCA information and communication bureau spokesperson Lee Wei Kiat said the party is concerned that the commission, as a regulatory body, will be perceived as attempting to silence the press, similar to the controversy over the detention of Sin Chew journalist Tan Hoon Cheng under the Internal Security Act for carrying out her job.

In a statement Friday, Lee pointed out that the commission had visited the portal’s office three times and interviewed 12 of its staff.

Lee said MCA is calling for the commission to allow all Malaysiakini staff to continue carrying out their duties professionally uninterrupted by marathon interview sessions.

He added that the commission should take into account the Prime Minister’s stand on Aug 7 that the Government will not filter the Internet.

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For the sake of clarity, I’ve highlighted similarly worded paragraphs in the same colour. In other ..errmm .. words, the red content of the first were left out in the second bulletin.

Why?

Was the Star told by higher authorities to tone down the message i.e. defending Mkini with very comforting terms, references to the UMNO Bukit Bendera politician and the Home minister plus explicitly describing the relevant cause celebre (Shah Alam bull-head incident) for which Mkini has now suffered three ‘fishing’ expeditions by the MCMC?

Is there something more to this than meets the eye?

Well, here’s another report, originally from Bernama, which was published in the NST:

Most MCA members don’t want Umno to interfere: Najib (2009/09/11)

Kuala Lumpur, Fri: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today he will not interfere in the internal affairs of the MCA because most of the party members do not want Umno to do so.

“Most members of the MCA do not want Umno to interfere,” Najib, who is also Umno president, told reporters after chairing a meeting of the Umno Supreme Council (MT), here today.

He disclosed this when asked on the suggestion by MCA vice-president Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha, who felt that the MCA internal problem could probably be resolved if Najib were to give his advice to the people concerned.

Kong, who is also the Housing and Local Government Minister, said Najib was very concerned about the problem faced by the MCA and he believed that the Prime Minister’s advice could ease the tension between the two factions, namely the supporters of the expelled MCA deputy president, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, and party president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat.

Najib, who is also the Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman, had earlier said that he would not interfere unless asked to become the mediator in resolving the crisis.

The MCA’s internal problem aggravated when Dr Chua was expelled from the party on Aug 26 following the sex video scandal involving him in 2007 which was alleged to have tarnished the party’s image.

Meanwhile, when asked on preparations to face the by-election for the Bagan Pinang state seat in Negri Sembilan, Najib said Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin would coordinate preparation work with the management committee and the Teluk Kemang Umno liaison body.

The Bagan Pinang state seat fell vacant when its incumbent assemblyman, Azman Mohd Noor, 55, died at the Seremban Specialist Hospital on Sept 4 due to a blood infection. ( BERNAMA – published 21:21pm)

Well, the Star had a similar but very short report:

Najib says he will stay out of MCA matters (published at 6:44pm)

Kuala Lumpur: Umno will not interfere in MCA’s internal problems, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.He said the majority of MCA members do not want Umno to be involved in the MCA crisis.

He said this when asked to comment on MCA vice president Datuk Kong Cho Ha’s suggestion that Najib, who is the Barisan Nasional chairman, may be able to give advice to all parties involved to resolve the MCA crisis.

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NTR recently announced the setting up of a new ‘super task force‘ on the PKFZ fiasco ostensibly comprising only of government servants. This move effectively takes the MCA president out of the investigation thereby leaving the BN component party with little clout to bargain ‘on equal terms’ with its larger partner in light of KDSB’s (read: UMNO) possible financial indiscretions.

With MCA besieged with a ‘presidential’ turmoil, could NTR’s action be construed as ‘turning the screws’ on its coalition partner?

Because without the PKFZ, MCA’s raisons d’etre in BN is severely diminished.

And UMNO lives another day to … never mind.

Sooo .. how’s all this connected to ‘MCA’s Star defends Mkini’?

Well, let me put it this way:

  • MCA is in bad shape.
  • There’s some serious horsetrading going on in the backroom which must be kept hush-hush.
  • The MCA-owned Star fires a broadside at MCMC, apparently a ‘malay’ institution by some reckoning.
  • Backroom negotiation (initiated by lower rung MCA officials) over and done, with NTR not interfering in MCA matters, unlike TDM’s verbal incursion into MIC.
  • The Star backtracks on Mkini‘s predicament with second report devoid of ‘UMNO/racial’ content.

Sounding alarm bells through their respective MSMs must be the latest game in town.

And I honestly thought MCA was defending press freedom in Malaysia.

Update: 1300HR 12/09/09.

Jeff Ooi’s also confirmed my reading of the above. Go here for his take and read Utusan‘s opinion piece (here) for context.