Nude Squat Incidence
This is about the nude – squat incidence and the “voluntary resignation” of 2 of the China Press Editors.
We are of the view that China Press has indeed made a mistake in identifying the subject in the case as a Chinese citizen, but considering the circumstances of that time, we think that the mistake is genuine and the punishment meted out is too harsh.
We think that this development has certain implications and therefore would like to voice our concern to the public and our Leadership.
A. Circumstances around the time
- When our beloved PM Dato Seri Abdullah Badawi became the Prime Minister in Nov 2003, he asked that people tell him the truth. (“Tell me the Truth”). As a result, the press is becoming more open and more liberal in its reporting which is a good sign and a big step forward for realizing press freedom. This is also part of the process of becoming more transparent and accountable.
2 . Public perception of the police is not favourable. With the setting up and the conclusion of the Royal Police Commission, expectations were high among the public. Though any reform will take time, some members of the public were impatient and any report of Police misconduct seems to create a lot of public interest.
3. Just before the story of nude squat case became public, there were stories of 5 Chinese nationals married to Malaysian being detained by Police at road block and were subjected to shabby treatment including strip-search.
Their cases were taken up by MPs of both side of divide and were sensationally reported in the press.
4. In the context of prevailing circumstances at that time, the press must have viewed the reporting of the nude-squat case as timely and necessary. The mistake China Press made is not in reporting of the incidence but rather the wrongful identification of the subject as a Chinese national. Many of those who read and saw the pictures in the press at that time would have come to the same conclusion that the subject was a Chinese, given the fairness of the skin and the facial features . In hindsight, we know that the Paper should not have made the ethnic identification. But given the circumstances, we believe that the Paper has made a genuine mistake and a public apology would have sufficed as punishment.
B. Points to consider
- Is nude-squat necessary ? It may be for certain categories of detainees but we think that it should definitely not be used indiscriminately.
- Is it done properly with proper protection of the rights and dignity of the detainees?
- Is it wrong to blow whistle when something is not right especially when it is done in good faith?
- Should any punishment be meted out to whistle blower even when the whistle blower has made an unintentional mistake? Even when it is done in public interest?
1 The perception is that the 2 editors were the scapegoats and their punishment is meted out to sooth injured ego. It may also be a warning – “killing the chicken to warn the monkeys”— that the government is willing to wield the big stick (as warned in a recent editorial of NST).
- Other editors in future will think twice to expose any issues that is of public interest. Press freedom, already limited in
Malaysia, will suffer.
- Individuals will not dare to speak out on any form of injustices and abuses
- The country would have taken a step backward with regards to transparency and accountability. This will affect the competitiveness of the country in this era of globalization.
What is done cannot be undone. We only hope that the government will continue to open up, be more liberal with regards to press freedom, and be more transparent and accountable. Perhaps a review of the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the enactment of a Whistler Blower’s Act may be in order.