• Money and favours: press ethics at stake
• In Penang, a question of possible corruption
• Did councillor get anything in return?
File photo: Council staff issuing a parking summons
Disturbing questions arise from a letter to Malaysiakini published last night, a condensed version of which is below. A law lecturer says a Penang councillor paid the fee to release a reporter’s car that had been impounded for a parking offence. He heard about it from the reporter’s Facebook (the posting has since been deleted, I’m told).
If the incident is true, it was stupid of the reporter to have asked a politician for a favour that involves fines, compounded fines, or money. It was stupid of the politician to have done so.
The exchange of money, in cash or kind, in return for favours is probably best described as corruption, but whether it is an offence in law has to be determined.
But the fact that this account has surfaced puts the whole journalism community on the spot, and not only in Penang.
What will journalists do about this?
Issue a statement? Pretend it never happened? Ask for a favour to cover it up?
Freedom of the press is under attack not just by policemen using the law to jail journalists, but by the actions of journalists themselves when they exchange favours or trade information.
Will journalists themselves do anything about this?
The letter to Malaysiakini (condensed) is below.
SHAMSER SINGH THIND
a law lecturer in Penang
I was browsing my Facebook one day when I read one press reporter’s post complaining about an incident some time ago where her illegally parked car had been towed away by Council enforcement officers. Obviously this is not that newsworthy. What caught my attention was how this incident was resolved.
According to the said reporter, one of the MPPP councillors paid the fine and redeemed the car for her. I am not sure whether or not this is true but, for the sake of this article, let us assume that this claim is true.
Now why would an MPPP councillor pay a fine to redeem a towed car for any person?
I vividly remember that several months ago the car of one of my students was towed away for being parked illegally along Dunlop Road in George Town, Penang.
I immediately called up one MPPP councillor to ask for his help. He told me that there is nothing that can be done to redeem the car except by paying the stipulated fine at the MPPP enforcement office behind Penang Times Square.
Why did the MPPP councillor pay the fine for the reporter?
File photo: Action against illegal parking
The councillor in my student’s case certainly did not do the same!
Of course MPPP councillors have to be always on the ground serving the public but I strongly believe that it does not include settling fines imposed by MPPP for another person, especially if that other person is a press reporter. It might give the false impression that certain people are given privileges by MPPP councillors because of their positions.
Not only Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion; Caesar himself, too, must be above suspicion.
I urge the MPPP councillor who allegedly paid the fine on behalf of the reporter to reveal himself and explain why he did this favour, and more importantly he ought to disclose what consideration if any he has received in return of such a favour.
I also urge the state executive councilor in charge of local government, YB Chow Kon Yeow, to investigate this matter and clarify whether or not such action amounts to conduct unbecoming an MPPP councillor.
Condensed from a letter published at Malaysiakini