KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian government is paying for 30 local journalists to travel to the Middle East and cover the war in Iraq because of biased reporting by Western media, officials said Tuesday.
"We want Malaysians to know the truth about the situation in Iraq. We don't want to rely on the foreign media as the reports are not based on neutral ground," Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.
Syed Hamid said the government agreed to the idea after complaints of biased reporting by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the US-based Cable News Network (CNN).
An information ministry spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse that 30 journalists representing Malaysian television channels, major newspapers and the official Bernama news agency would participate in the government-sponsored trip.
Officials from the information, home and foreign ministries would also join the group, she said.
"I want to be able to give a first-hand account of the real scenario in Iraq, especially from the human angle, how the women and children suffer most in the war," Ishak Dalib, a senior editor at private television station NTV7, told AFP.
The group would leave this week for Damascus, Amman, Doha and Kuwait before crossing the border into Iraq, he said. They had been promised assistance by Iraqi diplomats in Malaysia and would spend up to a month in the region.
The government of Muslim-majority Malaysia is firmly opposed to the US-led war in Iraq, and newspapers regularly carry pictures of civilians killed or injured by coalition forces.