26 February, 2007

Reporter’s red tape nightmare

T’S always the same story – our lousy delivery system. The Prime Minister is aware of it and is truly frustrated but unless our bureaucrats do something, all the promotions and money spent will come to nothing.

Take for example, the recent Floral Fest which was part of the Visit Malaysia 2007 programme.

The Malaysia Tourism Board had invited 190 journalists from all over the world to cover this special event. The media invite included 17 Indonesian journalists including representatives from three television stations.

They enjoyed the Floral Fest and the hospitality but Nila Tanzil, the host of Melancung Yuk, had plenty of complaints and with good reason too.

She blogged (nilatanzil.blogspot.com) that she had asked for a letter from the Tourism Board confirming her as a guest of the country and allowing her easier movement.

But an official told her that he needed two weeks to get that letter.

Indonesia is bad when it comes to red tape but this reply was enough to astonish, if not disgust, the young Indonesian reporter.

Having only six days to spend in town, more frustrations awaited her.

The crew was barred from shooting at two shopping malls, which bewildered her because she assumed that Malaysia wanted to promote the country as a shopping destination.

But still, she was prepared to keep an open mind because shopping complexes, even retail outlets, are sensitive over fears they would be exposed to rivals or copycats.

The ban continued further when she went to the revolving restaurant at the KL Tower, the fourth tallest tower in the world.

Luckily, Nila managed to get the public relations officer to help her, even though it was a Sunday. As a resourceful reporter, she obtained her phone number from a French journalist based in Kuala Lumpur.

By this time, according to her blog, feathers had been ruffled and the Tourism Malaysia board representative in Jakarta was not amused. There was a loss of face, as expected.

Nila was told that she should not call any parties directly from then on. For any journalist, who is only interested in getting the job done, this bureaucracy is a waste of time.

In short, the whole episode of incompetence and low-level red tape left the Indonesian with a poor impression of our country.

We do not know whether other journalists had similar complaints. We can only hope that Nila’s experience was an isolated one.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, his deputy Datuk Donald Lim and secretary-general Datuk Dr Victor Wee have all worked hard for the campaign.

The last thing they need is poor execution from low-level officials.

What’s missing are obviously guides trained to fulfil the requirements of the media. There are still 10 months before Visit Malaysia 2007 ends and hiccups like this need to be rectified.

More importantly, the ministry must hear from the reporter and the officials involved as to what had actually taken place.

It must be taken seriously because her complaints have made its rounds among Jakarta’s press fraternity and bloggers who have become a new but important and powerful alternative media source.

Someone in the ministry has to explain to Nila and certainly to Malaysians who’ve read her complaints.

The Star

Related :

Reporter’s red tape nightmare - Wong Chun Wai
Chun Wai on blogger's power hurting us in Indonesia - Screenshot
Malaysian Tourism Board and the Indonesian blogger - Unspun
“Malaysia… Is it Really Trully Asia?" - nila tanzil

Related to related news :

'Slash the red tape to make Malaysia a research hub' -NST

Malaysian author sues over govt ban of his race-riot book

A Malaysian author filed on Friday, February 23, what lawyers in Kuala Lumpur believe is an unprecedented suit against the government to overturn a controversial book ban.

K. Arumugam is challenging a ban on his work, March 8, which documents race riots between majority ethnic Malays and minority ethnic Indians on that date in 2001.

“My lawyer said he couldn’t find any precedent for the case. Probably this is the first time someone is taking up the case for a banned book. I intend to give it a try,” Arumugam told AFP, after filing his affidavit at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

“We are filing for judicial review, calling for the quashing of the order by the Home Ministry and that the ban be lifted to allow me to circulate the book,” Arumugam told reporters.

The bloody riots, in which six people were killed, erupted in a rundown suburb in Kuala Lumpur and shocked Malaysia, where ethnic clashes are rare.

Malaysia’s 27 million people, 60 percent of whom are Malay and legally defined as Muslims and bumiputra (“sons of the land”), 26 percent Chinese and 8-percent Indian, coexist in relative harmony.

The country had not experienced serious race riots since 1969.

Arumugam believes the government banned his book to cover up the incident. He denies that his book incites racial hatred or posed a security threat.

“The book is basically a resource-based document... I [also] tried to explain to the readers that an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind,” he said.

Arumugam said he planned to sue the government for damages after this current lawsuit is completed.

Activists and rights groups have slammed the government’s ban on March 8 and over 50 other books.

Discussions on race and religion are considered sensitive topics by the government of mainly Muslim Malaysia, while sex and sexuality are seen as taboo.

A couple of lawsuits questioning government acts are awaiting court decisions that could shake traditional Malaysian social norms.

In one suit a Muslim who was baptized a Christian when she was a little girl and is happy being a Christian wants to have her ID changed accordingly, but Malaysia’s legal system respects Muslim sharia law that condemns leaving Islam as a sin and a crime punishable by death.

Another case is that of a Chinese Malaysian who was switched at birth in the hospital and given the Muslim identity of the parents who raised him. Now an adult and having found his real parents, who are Chinese and Buddhists, he is asking the court to amend his citizenship ID to reflect his true ethnic and religious status. (AFP)



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