Hornbill Unleashed

November 10, 2013

Murum blockades: Were reporters blind?

Filed under: Dams,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
Tags: , , , ,

Winston Way

  •  Penan lawyer activist Abun Sui Anyit is baffled at the ignorance of the journalists and the impossible claim that ‘there was no blockades’.

An activist familiar with the ground situation in Murum is baffled as to how journalists visiting the Murun Dam and the Tegulang native resettlement area had not seen  Penan blockades leading into the project site.

Said lawyer-actvist Abun Sui Anyit: “I was shocked to know when they (the journalists) said the Penans were not there (at the blockade site), and that the blockades had disappeared.

“It’s not true. Actually, the Penans were at the blockade at that particular time (of visit).”

Anyit was reacting to alleged lopsided reports by local journalists who had been taken on a conducted tour of the controversial Murum Dam project and the Tegulang resettlement area.

The tour was organised by the main contractors Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) at the alleged behest of the Kuching Journalists Association.

SEB has been under severe attack locally and abroad over its handling of the native resettlement issue and environmental impact of the hydropower dam.

Speaking to FMT,  Anyit said it was obvious that the journalists did not know the “actual” situation in Murum.

“I think the journalists did not know the actual circumstances because their reports did not portray the real state of affairs.

“How can they not know about the ongoing blockades?,” he asked refering to the fact that the blockades and the conditions in Tegulang settlement were widely reported by the online media.

Anyit even pointed out that the journalists who reported on the settlement had failed to raise the issue of quality of housin and the contruction materials used to
build them.

“The quality of houses is poor ..even the tap water in the settlement is  not clean. I suggest that journalists should arrange one more trip with us (the Penans) together with SEB representatives,” he said.

‘Offensive misinformation’

Yesterday the Kuching Kuching Division Journalists Association (KDJA) and Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA), Sarawak branch slammed online investigative portal Sarawak Report (SR) for their “gutter” journalism and denied claims that SEB had ‘directed’ them to write optimistic reports.

The associations took London-based SR to task for alleging that their journalists had puked out “unpleasant half truths” fed to them by SEB representatives.

Refering to the tour, SR posted that some journalists were reportedly supplied with “deeply offensive misinformation” by some SEB representatives about the Penan and Kenyah community.

“They were told about how lazy, useless, drunk, dirty, uneducated, dependent on handouts and all things bad you can think of with regard to the Penan,” SR had said.

In an earlier posting SR also noted that state-owned SEB had organised the all-expenses paid three day corporate trip to Bintulu from Oct 28-Nov 1 for members of the Sarawak Journalists Association to visit the Murum Dam site, but “pretended the blockade had ended and that indigenous blockaders were no longer at the site”.

Apart from a workshop on hydropower, the media members  were also taken on a visit to the Tegulang site.

The journalists participating in the trip mostly wrote about the technicalities of the dam rather than its affects on the natives.

In its last Wednesday posting, SR claimed that 24 journalists, including members of two Sarawak journalist associations, were treated to a ‘good dinner’ with ‘a promise that SEB will judge which is the best publicized article amongst the reporters, (and) prizes will be given’.

Meanwhile the days following the media tour has seen a flush of positive spins.

‘Half truths’

Under a headline on November 1 of “Murum dam to be operational by Aug 2014”, the highly pro-BN New Sarawak Tribune, however illustrated some details about the resettlement area in Tegulang, from which the Penans from Long Wat were relocated.

It reported that a representative of the community there, Saran Joo, as saying ‘his people were slowly getting used to life in the longhouse after moving there about one and a half months ago’, and ‘thanked SEB for relocating the people of Long Wat there’.

The usually more-liberal The Borneo Post, under its November 4 deadline, ‘Murum signals state’s progress in dam devt’, was surprisingly more methodological in its report.

It even admitted inside its story that power generation from its first unit is expected to commence in August 2014 and full generating capacity achieved in February 2015, ‘according to a recent media handout distributed by SEB’.

Meawhile The Star’s report, also last week, was less technical, and reported more on the Tegulang community with a headline that blared:  “Journalists come away from Murum dam tour a better informed lot”.

Among others ,the optimistic report noted that the Penan “liked” their new village and these were quotes from two SEB personnel

The journalist also wrote that it was a “very fruitful and educational experience” for many of the journalists who were there for the first time.

“Reading the online news portals only revealed not even half of the real situation there as SEB was really trying its best to ensure smooth resettlement of the affected communities and at the same time provide better living while helping them to sustain it through various training programmes,” said the report.


  1. Yes they were blinded by the free lunch, free breakfast, free dinner, free rides, free goodies, perhaps free pocket money to buy dirt in Murum.

    What do we expect from mere reporters who called themselves journalists? As MERE REPORTERS for BN crony owned newspapers, they of course only report what they are ask to report. The Penans blockades they passed through on the way to murum were invisible to them because they were asked to look the other way and maybe “blind folded” too!

    Comment by brian — November 11, 2013 @ 10:15 AM | Reply

  2. They were taken for a picnic and provided with food and allowance and at the end of the all expenses paid trip plus ” obedience” allowance, given a script by SEB corporate affair department.

    Comment by Mata Kuching — November 10, 2013 @ 6:13 AM | Reply

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