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BBC: Journalists protest in Kuala Lumpur [The Sun]
By Simon Ingram
17/1/2002 2:35 am Thu
Journalists protest in Kuala Lumpur
The claim of a plot to kill Prime Minister Mahathir was untrue
By Simon Ingram in Kuala Lumpur
Journalists at The Sun, one of Malaysia's leading English language
newspapers, have held a vigil in protest against the owners'
decision last week to dismiss nearly half the editorial staff.
The candlelit vigil outside the paper's Kuala Lumpur offices will
probably be the last of the symbolic protests, involving several
dozen staff members, their friends and supporters.
They have been held every evening since New Year's Eve - a
week after the tabloid daily paper ran a front-page splash story
under the headline "Plot to Kill PM".
The sensational claim of a plot by local politicians to assassinate
the Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, was untrue.
The suspicion is that the journalists who wrote it, and the editors
who decided to run it, fell into a trap.
Independent media threatened
The Sun is one of three English-language dailies in Malaysia and
until now had been considered the most independent in its
In a country where most media operate under the suffocating
control of the ruling National Front government, or else engage in
strict self-censorship, The Sun dared print what others did not.
In particular, it reported extensively on a recent damaging split
within the main pro-government ethnic Chinese party.
Following the embarrassing Christmas Day gaffe, several senior
editorial staff were suspended.
The journalists who protested were among the 40 people
Meanwhile, special editorial advisors were appointed with a brief to
vet all sensitive stories before publication.
A local human rights group, Aliran, said the fate of mainstream
media in Malaysia was now almost sealed.
The saga of The Sun, a statement said, showed that even remotely
independent journalism could not be tolerated in Malaysia and
therefore could not survive.