KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 — The latest order by Putrajaya for government-linked corporations (GLCs) to spend more advertising ringgit in Umno-linked Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian (BH) can only indicate dwindling public appetite for government propaganda, the opposition has claimed.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders slammed the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) for abusing public funds to prop up the ailing businesses of the Malay dailies, which they say have long been used as propaganda tools for Umno — the dominant party in the BN coalition — and by extension the government.
PAS strategic director Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said it is clear that the public has had enough of the pro-government spin in the two papers, especially Utusan which is owned by Umno.
“You can’t interpret it otherwise. It’s reflective and indicative of the people’s rejection. If it was done hush-hush then it is something else, but to outrightly and blatantly tell GLCs to buy ads... to me, it’s arrogant and a careless disregard for whatever ethics and Malaysian culture we hold dear,” he said when contacted by The Malay Mail Online.
Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan was reported to have said yesterday that GLCs must spend more money to support the two Malay dailies in their “struggle” for the country.
He said the top 35 GLCs only spend 3.7 per cent of their combined advertising budget on Utusan.
“Advertise according to proportion, be fair. I have written letters to ensure the appropriate action is taken to increase advertising in Malay newspapers,” he was quoted as saying by news portal Malaysiakini.
“We are not asking for a majority of the budget, but this is too little... do not overspend on English and Chinese newspapers,” Ahmad Maslan added.
Dzulkefly said the deputy minister’s statement could have come about due to shrinking sales and revenue for both Utusan and BH, but stressed that these are not reasons for the government to dig into its own coffers to prop up their propaganda tools.
“That’s the free market. The free enterprise of ideas should allow for competition. You can’t instruct and recklessly use taxpayers money,” he said.
DAP’s Kluang MP Liew Chin Tong agreed that the government cannot impose such a directive on GLCs, which were built on public funds.
“This is basically using public funds to prop up party propaganda papers. It is a grave misuse of public funds for the government to direct GLCs to support BH and Utusan,” he said.
Seremban MP and DAP national organising secretary Anthony Loke noted that Putrajaya would not have to rope in GLCs for support if the two newspapers had maintained a high level of credibility.
“This just shows that there is no confidence in Utusan and BH. These two papers are shrinking and they have no more credibility left. If a newspaper has credibility, they will definitely get a lot of advertisers,” he said.
PKR’s communication director Fahmi Fadzil said the onus lies on both Utusan and BH to make internal changes to meet the demands of today’s readers, which in turn will make them more attractive to advertisers, including GLCs.
“Datuk Ahmad Maslan and even (Prime Minister) Datuk Seri Najib Razak must realise; GLCs refuse to advertise because readers are not comfortable with the contents of Umno-owned papers. Carry out true and complete reform in these papers before asking GLCs to advertise,” he said in a statement.