By Hafiz Yatim
Utusan Malaysia‘s group editor-in-chief Abdul Aziz Ishak has admitted that the Umno-owned daily does not provide balanced political coverage and instead promotes the aspirations of the ruling party.
Abdul Aziz (left) told the High Court in Kuala Lumpur today that as with any national newspaper, the daily would report on national issues.
He was testifying in a defamation suit filed against the newspaper by PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.
However, in reporting news about the opposition, Abdul Aziz, 48, would not describe it as providing balanced reporting, rather to side with the aspirations of the ruling party.
Replying to questions from Anwar’s counsel N Surendran, Abdul Aziz was asked whether the daily provided a balanced coverage.
Surendran: In the political arena, do you agree that Utusan does not give a balanced political coverage?
Abdul Aziz: I agree, but it is towards siding with the aspirations of the ruling party.
Earlier, Abdul Aziz admitted that Utusan is mainly owned by Umno but claimed the party does not interfere with the editorial process.
Surendran: There is an Umno representative on the board and one who is the representative of the prime minister?
Abdul Aziz: Yes, Hashim Ahmad Makaruddin is the chairperson and he is from Umno.
Surendran: What about PM’s representative?
Abdul Aziz: I would not say the person is a PM’s representative. He is more of the party (representative).
Surendran: You mean Tengku Sharifuddin Tengku Ahmad (press secretary to Najib Abdul Razak)?
Abdul Aziz: Yes.
Surendran: Is there any directives given by Umno on the editorial board with respect to contents or articles regarding the opposition?
Abdul Aziz: There is no intervention at all.
Anwar filed the RM150 million defamation suit against the Umno-owned Malay daily and two others, Abdul Aziz and former Selangor PAS commissioner Hasan Ali, over what Utusan reported about his interview with the BBC.
The daily claims that Anwar wants to legalise homosexuality in the country. ‘Hasan said the truth’
Asked again by Surendran whether the daily carries only negative reports on the opposition, Abdul Aziz maintained that it raises the aspirations of its political masters.
He said although Umno owns Utusan, its editorial is fairly independent.
“We do also report positive news on the opposition and Anwar, as I agree that Anwar is a national figure,” the Utusan Malaysia editor-in-chief added.
Surendran then asked about what Utusan‘s deputy editor, Mohd Zaini Hassan, said that the daily allows spinning of its news as long as it attacked the opposition, but this was objected to the newspaper’s counsel Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin.
Abdul Aziz admitted that he cleared the title and front page report on the alleged defamatory article and found it to be correct.
He said what was reported to have been said by Hasan (right), who is also Gombak Setia assemblyperson, was the truth.
“We are confident that what Hasan said is the truth,” Abdul Aziz said in replying to another question from Surendran.
“We believe in what we have from Hasan.” he said several times when asked whether the reported news on the issue was the truth.
The witness disagreed that what was reported by Utusan on Anwar was mainly malice.
“I do not agree that we negatively report on Anwar, as there are positive news on him that we have highlighted before.”
Abdul Aziz maintained that the alleged defamatory article was fair comment and the daily had the qualified privilege to publish it.
During re-examination by Firoz Hussein, Abdul Aziz said like any media such as Harakah and Rocket, Utusan fulfilled the aspirations of the party that owned the newspaper.
Hearing before Justice VT Singham continues on Oct 23.