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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 17:09 GMT
Malaysian newspaper apologises for doctored photo
Former Deputy PM Anwar Ibrahim standing next to PM Mahathir Mohamad in 1995

Technology has put current Deputy PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Mr Ibrahim's place

Malaysia's biggest Chinese-language newspaper has apologised for altering a photograph to remove jailed former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim from a line-up of Barisan Nasional leaders.

The photo, taken in 1995, appeared in the 14 November edition of Sin Chew Jit Poh and was doctored using modern technology to replace Mr Ibrahim with the current Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The editor-in-chief of the paper, Liew Chen Chuan, said that the mistake was committed by a junior sub-editor who "felt that as Anwar Ibrahim was no longer in the Barisan National, his presence in that photograph was inappropriate."

This was a violation of the cardinal principle of journalism
Editor-in-chief Liew Chen Chuan
He admitted that the 'updating' of the photo was "a violation of the cardinal principle of journalism", but said the sub-editor had no political motive.

Complaints about the changed photograph first appeared on the internet, especially through the Chinese discussion group Kopitiam.

The editor of the section in which the photo appeared posted a message defending himself. He wrote that the picture was "not meant to reflect the reality of the event".

Mistake 'will not be repeated'

A few days later the internet media site "Malaysiakini" posted the photo side-by-side another taken at the same event, to prove the Sin Chew Jit Poh photo had been doctored.

On Monday night the paper issued its full explanation and apology, adding that the mistake, "the first such ever", would not be repeated.

Malaysia's Snap Election
But according to the International Herald Tribune many of the paper's readers were unaware of the statement, as it was only e-mailed to the members of the internet forum who spotted the alteration.

The controversy has highlighted the role that the internet is playing in Malaysian politics.

It is seen to have broken the government's control over information by offering an alternative source of news

Opposition parties are using the Internet to distribute political tracts and other information that the mass media will not publish.

But its reach is still limited. Malaysia has nearly 600,000 subscribers and 1.5 million users of the internet in a population of 22 million.

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See also:
16 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Malaysia's much-maligned media
17 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Malaysia opposition challenges election
15 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: The challenge for Malaysia's reformers
11 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Party guide: Malaysia's opposition alliance
10 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Malaysia's strongman Mahathir

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