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As promised, NST prints apology for its false report
The New Straits Times today featured an apology to four NGOs for its publication of a false report last year, in which it accused the four, including electoral reform group Bersih, of trying to destabilise the government.
The half-page apology, featured prominently on page three of the daily, was part of theconditions set by the NGOs Bersih 2.0, human rights group Suaram, Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and pollster Merdeka Center, for dropping theirdefamation suit against the newspaper.
Aside from the NGOs, Malaysiakini too was named in the article as one of the recipients of a share of RM20 million from Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) over a period of seven years from 2005.
The money, the NST report said, was part of foreign funding meant to “destabilise” the BN-led government by causing political unrest, similar to other Middle Eastern countries, and to bring down the nation’s economy.
Article 'groundless and false'
In the apology, NST acknowledged that the report, ‘Plot to destabilise govt’, which it front-paged on Sept 21, 2012, was “groundless” and “false”.
“We acknowledge that the accusations above that we made in the said article were false and without foundation.
“We also acknowledge that we had no proof whatsoever to substantiate any of the said allegations and that we did not verify the information and facts relied on with Bersih 2.0, CIJ, Suaram and Merdeka Center,” the apology reads.
Therefore, it said, the article concerned “should not have been published”.
Besides the apology, which it was to publish within 14 days of the court settlement, except on a Saturday, the daily also agreed to retract its online article and publish the same apology.
It also agreed to pay RM120,000 in costs to the four parties.
Suaram: How the mighty have fallen
Suaram director Kua Kia Siong described NST's abject apology as showing that the paper is a poor assassin.
"The apology acknowledges NST’s shockingly low standard of journalism, which has deteriorated far below that from the colonial times, when Straits Times used to command a certain degree of credibility, despite being an establishment paper.
"Today, it has sunk to a level of being the ruling party’s media assassin. And a poor assassin at that!"
Kua noted that NST published the false report on Sept 21 last year and that this was followed by the BN federal government's vindictive campaign against Suaram, with no less than six government agencies investigating the organisation.
These agencies including the Companies Commission Malaysia, Perkeso, Bank Negara and Registrar of Societies, all of which harassed Suaram - and in the end admitted that their allegations did not have a leg to stand on, he said.
"Everybody can see that it was payback time for Suaram for having complained to the French courts to investigate the suspected commissions hidden in the more than RM7 billion Scorpene submarine deal," added Kua.
"After such an ignominious day for one of Malaysia’s oldest newspapers, one can understand what Thomas Jefferson meant when he once said: “The most truthful part of a newspaper is the advertisements…”