KUALA LUMPUR – July 22, 2015: Former senior editors who have been critical of the controversial 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) declined to comment on whether they would have handled the issue the same way as editors of financial daily, The Edge.
The Mole today posed this question to several current and former senior editors including those who had been highly critical of 1MDB; “If you were offered similar information regarding the PetroSaudi – 1MDB deal and knowing the implications such info has on the country, would you still publish it or would you hand it over to the relevant authorities?”
Two of the 1MDB leading critics, former New Straits Times Press (NSTP) group editor in-chief Datuk Abdul Kadir Jasin and former Utusan Melayu chief editor Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin declined to comment.
“Tq. I would not comment,” Abdul Kadir replied via a text message.
“I don’t want to comment,” said Zainuddin when contacted by phone.
Yesterday, it was reported that The Edge media group publisher and group CEO Ho Kay Tat admitted that he met with a person who possessed classified information detailing business deal between PetroSaudi and 1MDB.
It was widely believed that the person is former PetroSaudi official Xavier Andre Justo who is currently detained by Thai authorities for allegedly trying to blackmail his former employer.
Ho said in a statement yesterday that, at that time, he had only two choices which were to “drop the matter like a hot potato and walk away or get hold of everything so that the truth can be uncovered.”
“We decided we had to pursue the truth,” Ho said.
In his statement, Ho said The Edge had handed documents, printed emails and a hard disc to Bank Negara and the same set of information was given to the Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) of the Police.
Former NST group editor Datuk Syed Nadzri Syed Harun when posed with the question, replied that he would have done the same as Ho if he were “in the shoes” of The Edge publisher.
“I will ask myself about what role the Press has. It is to uphold the truth.
“Political considerations should not be in the way. Pursuit of the truth come what may,” he texted.
When asked for further clarification whether what Ho did was the right choice, Syed Nadzri said “Yes”.
Another former senior editor who said he would have done the same as Ho was Datuk Ahirudin Attan who used to lead the editorial team of Business Times and The Malay Mail.
Ahirudin, however, qualified that he would publish such material as that in Ho’s possession “but to a point”.
Better known as Rocky, Ahirudin who is a prominent blogger stated in his latest posting, ‘Publish and be damned: I’d do the same but to a point…’, that Ho was not wrong to uphold the right to publish what he deemed to be true and in the interest of the public.
“I have known editors who’d rather be damned for NOT publishing instead of pushing the limits of press freedom: they’d cower at the slightest prospect of a lawsuit, or the displeasure of their CEO, or the wrath of politicians.
“If you ask me, I’d probably do what Kay Tat did: publish those stories about dubious and shady deals once I’ve established for certain that those “thousands and thousands of” documents were authentic and, more importantly, that the source(s) were genuine and had no ulterior motives.
“But I would have done it only to the point of Xavier Justo’s arrest in Thailand late last month and the Thai police revelation that documents had been stolen/ tampered with/used for blackmail and other criminal intent,” he wrote.
He added that he felt the publishing of those materials after Justo’s arrest was “on the side of reckless and can be construed as self-glorification.”
Among other current and former editors contacted were NSTP group managing editor Datuk Abdul Jalil Hamid, NST former deputy group editor Abdul Rashid Yusof and NST former group editor Datuk Ahmad Abdul Talib.
All of them did not respond to the text messages that were sent to them.