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Foolish to censor opposition leaders, communications expert says after TV AlHjirah kerfuffle

Zaharom Nain also says it is foolish to censor 'trivial matters'.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
2 minute read
Digital and Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil. Photo: Bernama
Digital and Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil. Photo: Bernama

A communications expert has criticised the government's investigation of its own Islamic television station following the re-airing of a programme featuring a former PAS minister, calling it "anti-democratic" and an overreaction. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Zaharom Nain also described the response of Digital and Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil as a foolish move. 

"We can understand and accept the censorship of extreme views or hate speech. 

"But to censor trivial matters such as the appearance of an opposition figure in an old television broadcast is not only anti-democratic, but actually stupid," Zaharom, of the University of Nottingham, added. 

Zaharom Nain
Zaharom Nain.

TV AlHjirah, a public television channel under the jurisdiction of the Department of Islamic Development or Jakim, had aired a re-run of "Hijrahkan Laguku", an Islamic singing contest first broadcast in January 2022.

The programme also featured Idris Ahmad, the PAS vice-president who was at that time the minister in charge of religion in the Prime Minister's Department.

PAS was part of the federal government from March 2020 to November 2022, when Putrajaya was under the coalition of Perikatan Nasional, GPS and Barisan Nasional.

Fahmi subsequently said he had contacted the management of TV AlHijrah "for an explanation and action".

TV AlHijrah itself said an internal investigation would be carried out to prevent a repeat of such issues. 

Zaharom said the government's strategy did not appear very different from the "age of the iron fist" under Barisan Nasional.

He also asked if a memo had been issued prohibiting television and radio stations from showing members of opposition parties. 

He said Fahmi, who came under scrutiny after a ban on several news portals including MalaysiaNow, did not appear to have a concrete strategy to deal with the opposition. 

"Censorship is the easy way out for lazy people," he said. "Where is the alternative message?"

He also said that while Fahmi should anticipate the views and criticism of government supporters, he could not blindly follow them. 

"If that's what he wants to do, it would be better not to hold a position of leadership. Give it to someone else," he added.