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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Buying positive publicity: UK regulator now on Najib's deal with FBC media

Sulaiman Kamal | 2:04 PM | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Prime Minister Najib Razak's government has come under fire for trying to shield him against a scandal that is threateng to rock the international media and plunge the country into further shame.

Nik Nazmi, a fast-rising author and a lawmaker in the Malaysian opposition coalition, warned that UK communications regulator, Ofcom, was already launching its own investigation into claims of bias and bribery at FBC Media. The FBC is a small UK firm employed by Najib and Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud to produce positive propaganda about themselves in a bid to deceive global audiences into a false perception about their leadership.

"The FBC fiasco has now attracted attention from credible newspapers across the world and is putting another dent in Malaysia’s tattered image globally.  Surely Putrajaya and Kuching must now disclose their role in and extent of this illegal public relations campaign. This scandal ironically comes in the wake of the censoring of the Economist magazine report on the Bersih 2.0 debacle," PKR assemblyman for Seri Setia Nik Nazmi said in a statement out on Thursday.
"As a result, Prime Minister Najib Razak was forced to concede the need to review national censorship policies. What is in dispute here is not the practice of hiring media advisory or public affairs firms, but rather these firms use of paid content to unwarrantedly bolster the image of certain governments at the expense of objective reporting."
How much of taxpayers money was spent
The scandal erupted after whistle-blower website Sarawak Report revealed that Najib had spent millions of taxpayers' money to hire FBC to make 'shows' and get them screened on prestigious TV channels including CNN, BBC and CNBC.
Nik Nazmi and other Pakatan leaders also called on the BN government to disclose the full bill expended by Najib on the TV programmes. It is also expected that Sarawak lawmakers will put similar questions to Taib in the state assembly when it sits.
Nazmi slammed Najib and Taib or resorting to unscruplous practises which he said disgraced Malaysia and was tantamount to international bribery. He questioned why there has so far been no response from either men on the FBC fiasco. Indeed, neither Putrajaya nor Kuching has denied or admitted to the allegations.
"We would now like the Prime Minister to come clean on the FBC fiasco to explain how hundreds of millions of ringgit of taxpayers’ money were being funnelled not towards the national image, but for the interests of his party," said Nik Nazmi.
Embarrassing silence
In stark contract to the Malaysian authorities, both BBC and CNBC have been swift to cut ties with FBC Media. BBC has suspended all programming commissioned from the company and is investigating how it came to broadcast supposedly impartial content that was in fact being produced by a company on the payroll of Putrajaya.
CNBC has also indefinitely withdrawn the FBC-produced World Business program. It will be remembered that this show featured Malaysian government leaders on a few occasions.
"Last week, I called on the Federal and the Sarawak state Governments to come clean on their hiring of the FBC Media firm to engage in an illegal public relations campaign. Putrajaya and Kuching were found to have paid FBC hundreds of millions of ringgit for strategic communications services and the production of friendly content for their governments, something clearly in contravention of fundamental media laws and ethics," said Nik Nazmi.
"Considering the international media attention that this issue has raised, their silence is truly deafening."

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