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In latest media clampdown, govt trains guns on its own TV channel

This is over the airing of an old reality programme featuring a PAS leader who was then a minister.

Staff Writers
3 minute read
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Public television channel TV AlHjirah has come under scrutiny for its re-run of a reality show from 2022 featuring a PAS leader who was a minister at the time.
Public television channel TV AlHjirah has come under scrutiny for its re-run of a reality show from 2022 featuring a PAS leader who was a minister at the time.

After a series of clampdowns on online news sites, Putrajaya's grip on media outlets appears to continue with a government Islamic broadcast channel being investigated for re-running a reality show from early 2022 featuring a PAS leader who was then minister for Islamic affairs. 

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 had 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.

In May, six months after the change of government, TV AlHijrah chairman Ab Halim Tamuri was replaced with with former law lecturer Khair Ngadiron. The government also announced the appointment of six new board members for the broadcast company: Hakimah Mohd Yusoff, Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh, Dzul Karnain Abdullah, Shamsul Qamar Abd Rani, Azizuddin Ahmad and Amran Idris.

idris-ahmad-tvalhijrah
Idris Ahmad, the minister in charge of Islamic affairs until last year, during a prize giving ceremony for 'Hijrahkan Laguku', a singing contest recently re-run by TV AlHijrah.

The re-run on Saturday night saw Fakhrurrazi Rashid, a Pakatan Harapan supporter who was until recently attached to a DAP-linked think tank, criticising the current Islamic affairs minister, Na'im Mokhtar.

"No wonder the Malays believe PAS is still the government, or is the religious minister not functioning," he asked on Twitter.

His post drew an immediate response from Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil, who said he had already contacted the management of TV AlHijrah "for an explanation and action".

This was followed by a short statement from the station, which announced the launch of an internal investigation.

"An improvisation of internal processes will also be carried out by TV AlHijrah so that this does not repeat," it said.

The statement was however met with a stronger reaction from Na'im, who publicly rebuked the TV station under his jurisdiction, accusing its staff of being "negligent and sloppy".

"Negligence and sloppy work without thoroughness is unacceptable in the field of broadcasting," he said.

Many PH supporters on social media nevertheless urged Na'im to resign for being slow on the job.

"Just resign. We are fed up with a religious minister who is slow and weak," said one.

In his response, Idris said he was saddened by the government's reaction, adding that he had never used the programme for political purposes.

"I was only giving out prizes to the artists, and my picture had appeared. I was a minister, not a leader of the Malayan Communist Party," he told a ceramah event in Johor last night.

Meanwhile, TV AlHijrah's statement on Facebook attracted hundreds of comments, many of which questioned the way government leaders were reacting over the footage of a political foe appearing on a re-run programme.

"Poor TV AlHijrah has to entertain a minister who is ripped apart," wrote Mohd Faisal Abdul Khanan.

"Even that is made into an issue! This is becoming more annoying, a good programme that is liked by many people should be re-run," said Mohd Firdaus Hj Ahmad.

"Why all riled up over a re-run?" asked Abdul Aziz Yusoff Rantawi.

"All over political differences," said Mohd Taib Bin Latip.

Other commentators meanwhile said they had not watched television for years, with some adding that they lacked free-to-air channels at home.

This came in the wake of a series of clampdowns on media outlets in the country, the latest being the move to block TV Pertiwi, an online news site specialising in short videos and political podcasts.

On Friday, the outlet refused to take down six pieces of news content, as part of a condition set by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), the agency under Fahmi's ministry which in recent years urged social media platforms such as X (formerly Twitter) and TikTok to remove content critical of the government.

In June, Fahmi came under fire after news portal MalaysiaNow was blocked for 48 hours. MCMC has not responded to repeated requests for an explanation.

Last month, another current affairs site, UtusanTV, operated by former staff of the now defunct Utusan Melayu media company, was also blocked.

MCMC was also behind the access bans on the Malaysia Today website run by government critic Raja Petra Kamarudin, as well as a blog specialising on corporate and financial sleaze run by former DAP MP Wee Choo Keong.

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