20 May, 2010

Malaysia state-owned broadcaster fires outspoken producer

Malaysian TV producer said Thursday he was fired by the state-owned broadcaster after he publicly complained that his show about a politically sensitive dam project on Borneo island had been scrapped.

Chou Z Lam wrote on his blog last month that Radio Televisyen Malaysia cancelled a documentary he had completed about the Bakun Dam in Malaysia's Sarawak state on Borneo island after two of the show's 10 episodes had already aired.

"I don't think that is acceptable," Chou told The Associated Press. "People have the right to know what's going on in Sarawak."

Chou had interviewed dozens of Borneo indigenous tribe members relocated from their homes more than a decade ago because of the dam. He found that many were unhappy with compensation they received, especially involving land and education.

Environmental and tribal rights groups have long protested the Bakun hydroelectric dam because it displaced thousands of indigenous people living mostly in poor settlements in the jungles. Malaysian authorities say the dam will supply crucial energy for Sarawak when it is fully operational by early next year.

Government and RTM officials did not immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday. However, local media reports have quoted RTM officials as saying that Chou was fired because of budget constraints.

Malaysia's biggest newspapers and TV stations are owned or closely linked to parties in the ruling coalition. They also need government licenses to operate, which critics say ensures they circulate flattering reports about the government.

A nine-part TV2 Mandarin documentary series which was to be aired from 26 April to 7 May was forced off the air on 28 April. What didn't they want us to see?

The documentary series was supposed to report on the social impact faced by more than 10,000 natives of the Belaga area who were forcibly relocated to Sungai Asap and Sungai Koyan area in 1998 to make way for the controversial Bakun Dam. Two episodes of this documentary were aired on 26 and 27 April before the series was yanked off.

Chou Z Lam, the producer of the documentary, revealed in a blog post that this was another instance of news interference by the BN government during and after the Hulu Selangor by election. He was told that some “sensitive elements” in the documentary could be harmful to the coming Sibu by-election and the Sarawak state election.

Chou felt sorry for the people of Sungai Asap whom he had interviewed, for their problems and voices could not be heard now by the people of east and west Malaysia.

TV2 Documentary Series On Bakun Dam Were Forced To Off The Air


Chou Z Lam( TV2 producer)

A TV2 documentary series which is to be on aired from 26 April to 7 May, at 12.20pm to 12.30pm under a mandarin program called Galeri Mandarin Nasional, were forced to off the air today(28.4.2010) under the direct instruction of RTM’s Ketua Pengarah Penyiaran Datuk Ibrahim Yahya.

2 episode of this documentary were on aired on Monday(26.4) and Tuesday(27.4) but forced to off the day today at 12.20pm.The documentary series is reporting on social impact faced by more than 10,000 natives of Belaga area, who were forced to be relocated to Sungai Asap and Sungai Koyan area in 1998, to give way to the construction of famous Bakun Dam.(unforfunately not a prestigious one)

Chou Z Lam, producer of the documentary believe this off the air action, is another news interference incident by BN government during and after the Hulu Selangor by election.When he approached his supervisors and several officers of RTM to obtain explanation of the off the air decision,Ketua Pengarah Bilik Berita,Jumat Engson, who said he can fully responsible on that decision, told Chou that this was due to some “sensitive elements” in the documentary which could seems harmfull to the on coming Sibu by election as well as the Sarawak state election. He also said the documentary could be postponed to other time when situation allowed.(after the state election)

Chou felt regret to the decision made by RTM management and he personally made an appeal to the Deputy Minister of News, communication,culture and arts YB Ng Sai Kee to interfere and resolve the matter. Unfortunately, the deputy minister failed to assist and only telling Chou that “we would not interfere into your(RTM) internal matter.”She only communicated with Chou via her private secretary, Mr Lee.

Chou felt deeply sorry for the peoples of Sungai Asap whom he had interviewed, for their problems and voices is being prevented to be heard by majority of the peoples both in east Malaysia and west Malaysia.He think RTM’s measure to suppress the audience as well as the natives of Sarawak is totally against what has been championed by our PM through his 1 Malaysia slogan, which claims “people first”( rakyat didahulukan) If Sibu by election and Sarawak state election are the reasons for this off the air action, then, what RTM implementing is actually “ politik diutamakan”.

He would like the RTM ketua pengarah to reconsider the off the air decision, so that RTM’s creditability can be restored and benefit of the natives as well as the audience can be assured.


1.Carta organisasi RTM.


2.Introduction to Documentary On Sungai Asap Resettlement

A documentary series on Social Impact of famous bakun dam on 10,000 indigenous peoples who have been resettled to Sungai Asap and Sungai Koyan area during 1998, will be on aired next Monday( 26.4.2010) till 7.5.2010, at TV2, 1220pm to 1230pm.

This series covers:

1. Economic crisis faced my native from 15 longhouses in resettlement areas
(on aired on Monday. 26.4.2010)

2. Shortage of farm land and land not suitable for farming which were given by state government of Sarawak to the natives as compensation.
(on aired on Tuesday. 27.4.2010)

3. Problems of agriculture and shortage of agri facilities, subsidies etc, whereby almost 90% of the relocated natives were farmers.
(supposed to be on air by Wednesday. 28.4.2010, but called off)

4. Serious drop out rate of native children in Sungai Asap area due to transport problem and extreme poverty.

5. Unresolved compensation promised by government and dam developer to pay affected natives on old long houses, NCR land at old place, fruit trees and harvest at old land.
(Friday. 30.4.2010)

6. Economic and energy analysis of Bakun dam, why public fund like EPF has been used, do we need the dam
(Monday. 3.5.2010)

7. Destiny of ancestral graves in Bakun area which were moved( for those able to be located and identified) and which were left submerged under 205m water in the reservoir area.
(Tuesday. 4.5.2010)

8. Impact of Bakun dam on livelihoods of downstream longhouses
(Wed. 5.5.10)

9. Issues of NCR land encroachment within and outside Asap resettlement area, with case study at Long Bangan.

10. Initiatives of Asap residents to request gov and dam developer to meet their needs through 12 point of “Perjanjian Bakun”.



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