My first impression is absolute absurdity! The way Utusan Malaysia treated the president of National Union of Journalists (NUJ) by conducting an in-house interrogation and confining to 'house arrest' is unbelievable!
Just because Hata Wahari made an open-and-common statement about how mainstream newspapers are losing revenue from lower circulation as the result of playing too much politics, he is condemned like a traitor to the company and made a subject of domestic inquiry.
For Utusan to impose such a punitive action which many believe would lead to his sacking, the Umno-owned newspaper company is defying Hata's rights to voice out his concern over the dwindling newspaper circulation, reduced profit from advertisement and shrinking readership.
His concern was not only for Utusan but for other newspapers like Berita Harian, New Straits Times and others which, over the mushrooming of new newspapers and e-media tools have saw profit took a tumble. Too much of bias political news and politic-related substance, it seems, is shunning readers and advertisers.
Some people also accused Hata of inclining towards the Opposition but I personally dont think so. Although Lim Kit Siang and news portals such as Malaysiakini and Free Malaysia Today (which are very critical of the government) support what he said, what Hata said was very constructive.
Members of any organisation depend heavily on their respective unions to secure a better wage, benefit and other remunerations. So, when a union chief expressed something like that, it means he was worried about the future of Utusan should annual revenue keeps going down. This will directly give adverse impact on their salaries, promotion and other perks.
However, it is sad to note that rather than taking care of the business and ensuring its growth for the benefit of shareholders and workers, some newspaper companies today pull a lot of stunts in politics. Readers got easily blase.
They rather sell sentiment to meet the demand of certain politicians, and I think the government of Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak should realise that whether this pro-BN newspapers fill up their space with party news or not, they still support the legitimate government.
So, it is time for the government helps looking at their coffers as it will warranty their survival and the plight of their employees. Treating people like Hata in such a manner shows how much some employers are anti-union.
And believe it or not, I was one of NUJ office bearers during the early 1990s, during which some of my colleagues - no matter how outstanding there were in journalism - were sidelined and denied promotions for being active union committee members.
I also see the trend in Cuepacs and other unions. No, I am not accusing anybody of being anti-union but these are the facts that stay.
Many companies play politics too but not to the expense of their employees. For newspaper operators, its good to stay in the political stream as long as you dont have to sacrifice their rights to better wage and benefits. If the business goes down, not only will the workers have to face belt-tightening measures, their political master will also feel the pinch!