Malaysia

BBC: No political pressure to drop RPK

By Adib Zalkapli
September 01, 2010

The enigmatic but highly controversial Raja PetraThe enigmatic but highly controversial Raja PetraKUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 — The BBC denied today that it was pressured to drop Malaysian blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin from its influential Hardtalk programme this week.

The network said its research found out that interviewing the Malaysia-Today website founder would affect an ongoing court case in Malaysia.

Given that the BBC and most major news organisations usually invite newsmakers after research is done on them and the subject, the answer from the BBC appears peculiar.

An interview date had also been given for RPK to appear and the cancellation came late last week after the interview had been publicised by the blogger's fans.

“The BBC researches many different stories, it is the normal process of news and current affairs throughout the media that not all make it to air for a variety of editorial reasons,” said the network in a statement issued via its senior press officer Peter Connor.

“In this case, it became clear in our research that any comprehensive interview with former Malaysia Today Editor Raja Petra Kamarudin would prominently feature issues that are currently the subject of a current court case in Malaysia, which raise issues of defamation,” it added.

The BBC however did not specify the court case.

Early this week, Malaysia-Today posted that Raja Petra was informed by BBC’s Bridget Osborne that the interview had been cancelled as it “would upset the Malaysian government and may even expose the BBC to legal action.”

But the BBC insisted today that the network was not under political pressure and the decision was in line with its editorial policy.

“The suggestion that the item was dropped due to political pressure is untrue. All BBC programmes adhere to the same strict editorial guidelines which ensure complete editorial independence and impartiality,” said the statement.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and former Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar have appeared on Hardtalk, a 30-minute interview programme.

Raja Petra, who was facing a criminal defamation trial, was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in November last year by the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court after the police failed to serve warrant of arrest.

He was believed to have fled the country in May last year after he was charged with defaming Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, the wife of the prime minister.

He allegedly published an article linking the murder of a Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu to Rosmah.

Raja Petra made his first public appearance in London last July with Pakatan Rakyat leaders where they spoke to over 200 people.