Hata Wahari: Utusan writes only on Umno’s say-so
Nothing in Utusan goes without Umno’s nod, says ex-staff writer
BY JOSEPH SIPALAN
Sept 2, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 2 — Any issue that is played up by Utusan Malaysia only sees print if it is given the green light by Umno’s top leadership, a former senior writer with the Malay daily said today.
Hata Wahari, who was sacked by the Malay newspaper in May 2010, said that this was the trend he saw based his own observations while working as an Utusan Malaysia journalist for 16 years.
“What is done by Utusan appears to always have something to do with Umno policy… unless they get the nod from the leadership, they won’t play up an issue,” he said at a forum called “Memahami Utusan — Siapakah Awang Selamat (Understanding Utusan — Who is Awang Selamat)” here.
Hata, who briefly headed the National Union of Journalists not long before his summary dismissal, claimed that the management principles in Utusan Malaysia was no different from Umno, where everyone bows to the whims of the top executive – which in the newspaper’s case is the chief editor.
In a tirade against the broadsheet’s regular columnist who pens articles under the pseudonym “Awang Selamat”, Hata said the anonymous writer enjoyed extensive immunity on whatever topic broached — so long as it suited the interests of a select few in Umno and did not impact negatively on the government’s image.
“Whatever Awang Selamat criticises, it will spur the prime minister into action.
“This makes Awang Selamat very powerful. With this much power, do you think the writer who takes on the title Awang Selamat will want to share? I don’t think so,” he said, stopping short of naming the personality or personalities behind the nom-de-plume.
Awang Selamat is generally known to represent the collective voice of the paper’s editors.
Hata, who became a DAP member after his sacking, has been a regular critic of the editorial policy of the right-leaning Malay daily.
Last May, he staged a solitary protest in front of Utusan’s headquarters in Cheras, an annual affair since his sacking three years ago.
Utusan’s Awang Selamat column is known for taking controversial positions on several key issues surrounding race, religion and Malay sovereignty.
Among the column’s latest targets include the surau at a private resort in Johor, which has since been demolished on grounds that the sanctity of the prayer room was defiled by a group of Buddhist monks from Singapore who performed prayers there after getting permission by the resort’s Muslim owner, also a Singaporean.
Awang Selamat has also targeted the Chinese community for being ungrateful, following Barisan Nasional losing out on popular support despite winning the recently concluded 13th General Election.