Wednesday March 13, 2002

Time magazine apologises to Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 (Reuters) - Time magazine apologised to Malaysia for an issue picturing the nation's flag and Osama bin Laden on the front cover and a tourism promotion for the country on the back, officials said on Wednesday.
But a Time spokeswoman said the magazine had only apologised for running the tourism advertisement in the February 11 issue and not for the cover story.
The apology comes a week after another U.S.-owned news weekly, the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), apologised to the Thai government for misunderstandings a story deemed offensive to its monarchy.
Time is published by a unit of New York-based AOL-Time Warner Inc, while FEER is a publication of Dow Jones & Co.
Malaysia delayed the distribution of Time magazine in the country after being angered by its February 11 issue.
The edition's front cover carried an image of bin Laden, the chief suspect of the September 11 attacks on the United States, together with a pair of automatic rifles over the Malaysian flag alongside the headline "Inside Malaysia's Terror Network".
The back cover featured an advertisement promoting tourism in the country.
Officials said Time had made a mockery of the country.
"The incident has ended, The cabinet is satisfied (with the apology)," Malaysia's Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency.
Abdul Kadir said Andrew Butcher, Time's London-based publisher, had apologised in a letter.
He said Time's Asian editor Karl Taro Greenfeld and regional marketing manager had also met him and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on the matter.
"It's alright if someone says it's a mistake and seeks an apology, we accept it," the minister said.
The cover story described Malaysia as a Southeast Asian financial planning centre for the al Qaeda terror group run by bin Laden.
"The placement of the ad was a mistake," Azmar Sukandar, the Hong Kong-based public relations manager for Time Asia, told Reuters.
The issue came on the heels of other foreign magazine reports which had painted Malaysia as a safe house for al Qaeda operatives -- a charge Kuala Lumpur strongly denied.

Malaysia blocks release of three international magazines

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25, 2002 (AFP)

Malaysia has blocked the distribution of three international news magazines, apparently because of government displeasure over foreign media coverage, publishing sources said Monday.
The last four issues of Time and Newsweek have been withheld after articles carried by both magazines angered the government, and five issues of the Far Eastern Economic Review have been delayed.
Frank Proctor, general manager of Newsweek's Pacific edition, said the delays were "unusual" because of the number of issues involved and length of time taken for approval of distribution.
"In the past, the time taken by the Malaysian government to approve varies from week to week, but this time, it is unusual," Proctor told AFP by telephone from Newsweek's offices in Hong Kong.
Four of the magazines' issues, starting February 4, have yet to be released and no official reasons for the delay have been given, he said.
The government banned the February 11 issue of Newsweek which showed an image of the Prophet Mohammad, an offence which Deputy Prime Minster Abdullah Badawi said violated the the law of the country.
"As such, we will not allow the edition to be circulated," he said.
Newsweek had earlier angered government officials when, in its February 4 edition, it cited a secret Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report as saying Malaysia was a "primary operational launchpad" for the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.
Rais Yatim, minister in the prime minister's department in charge of legal affairs, said last month the government was studying the possibility of suing the US-based magazine over the report.
The distribution of four issues of Time magazine in February has also been delayed, with no indication on when they would be approved for release.
A senior executive at Time's local distributor, Catalina Anniah, told AFP it was the first time the magazine had been blocked for so long.
"The Home Ministry told the distributors that the reason they are holding back is because of censorship of sensitive issues," she said, adding that the government has been asked for clarification.
"We are one month delayed, with no sign that the magazines will be released. We will just have to wait for their reply," she said.
Time's February 11 issue carried reports claiming that Malaysia was a regional financial and planning hub linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
An official with the Far Eastern Economic Review confirmed that distribution of the five most recent issues, starting January 24, had been delayed.
"A ministry spokesman told us that it was for censorship of some of our articles, but nothing official so far," Carol Po, a subscription executive, told AFP by telephone from the Review's Hong Kong offices.
"This is the first time such a long delay has happened and we are not allowed to distribute our magazines until further notice," she said.
The government authorised the release of the Review's January 24 issue recently but is still withholding the four most recent issues of the weekly, which sells more than 14,000 copies each week in Malaysia.
Subscribers to the magazine have so far been patient, said Po, and none have opted to cancel their orders.
"But we hope it doesn't last longer, we have a responsibility to our readers."
The government, however, denied, any crackdown on foreign publications, saying the delays in releasing the magazines could be due to many reasons.
Rohaizad Abdul Rahim, press secretary to the Home Minister, said the release and censorship of foreign publications was carried out by the publications control division, an autonomous entity within the ministry.
"There was a decision to ban one issue of Newsweek, but whether there is any fixed decision on other publications, I don't know," he told AFP, adding that the ministry itself was not involved in censorship.
"We have better things to do with our time than crack down on (foreign publications)," he said.

Friday, March 1st 2002

Latest Newsweek out but FEER, Time withheld

The latest edition of Newsweek has made it to the newsstands but the government continues to withhold the latest issues of two other American magazines, the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) and Time.
“Our Feb 25 issue is now being circulated in Malaysia and we are optimistic that circulation of future issues is now being resolved,” said Newsweek’s Hong Kong-based communications director Ken Weine via email today.
Local distributor Magazine Services also confirmed that Newsweek had hit the stores but said the other two magazines are yet to receive the green light from the Home Affairs Ministry.

Thursday, February 28, 2002

Distribution of three magazines delayed

KUALA LUMPUR: The Home Ministry has delayed the distribution of several issues of three international magazines for “inaccurate and untrue reporting of the situation in Malaysia”.
The approval for circulation of six issues of the Far Eastern Economic Review for January and February had been delayed.
Two issues of Newsweek, including its Feb 4 edition, which quoted a Federal Bureau of Investigation report as saying that Malaysia was a launch pad for the Sept 11 attacks, had been delayed.
Its Feb 11 issue, which had an image of Prophet Mohammad, has also been stopped from hitting the streets. Other countries like Indonesia and Bangladesh also took a similar decision on the Feb 11 issue of Newsweek.
Time magazine had three issues, starting from Feb 4 delayed while its Feb 25 issue was placed “under review’’.
Another international magazine, The Economist, is also affected, with the Feb 23 to March 1 issues placed “under review’’ for articles on the foreign workers issue.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung, when contacted, said the ministry did not normally withhold or delay the publications but this did not mean the Government was not monitoring the publications.
“Foreign news magazine are readily available here but we do expect them to give a balanced report of the situation in the country. It is unfair on the part of the correspondent to give views without checking the facts,’’ he said.
Chor said the ministry did not deliberately delay the circulation of foreign magazines.
Citing Newsweek’s Feb 11 issue, he said it was stopped from circulation as the article “compared Islam and Christianity” and “for its lopsided reporting which may cause confusion among the public’’.
“We don’t want the society to be contaminated by unhealthy and unfit news for readers,’’ said Chor, who warned that the ministry would take appropriate action if it found that the publications published “inaccurate reports with the intention to smear the country’s name’’.
To a question, Chor said that he would not like to jump to the conclusion that the foreign media had a hidden agenda towards Malaysia but noted that the United States’ government official stand on Malaysia differed from the stand taken by the American magazines.
“The US ambassador to Malaysia said his Government appreciates Malaysia’s efforts against terrorism but the magazines seem to indicate a different stand towards Malaysia.
“The accusation that Malaysia is a launching pad for t terrorists is something we cannot accept,’’ he said.
A Home Ministry official said that the delay in the magazines was to “send a message to the magazines to print the truth and not report based on half-baked sources’’.
He said the writers should share information with the Government, when they claim to possess information on terrorists or terrorist acts.