`Sarawak Report off target, not telling truth'

KUCHING (Nov 8, 2013): Kuching Division Journalists Association (KDJA) and Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA), Sarawak branch today accused Sarawak Report as indulging in gutter journalism, by twisting facts about journalists from Kuching and Bintulu visiting the Murum hydroelectric (HEP) dam project last week.

KDJA and CJA Sarawak took exception to accusations by the online news portal that the journalists were supplied with deeply offensive misinformation by some Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) representatives.

"The trip to Murum hydroelectric dam project was suggested by KDJA and CJA during a breaking of fast with Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) this year since so much have been heard about the Murum dam and anti-dam protesters," they said in a joint statement here.

They said SEB chief executive officer Datuk Torstein Dale Sjotveit agreed to look into the suggestion.

SEB felt that the trip alone was not enough, so they agreed to organise a workshop on understanding hydropower so that the journalists would have sufficient information on dam construction when they went to Murum dam later as well as arranged for the journalists to go the Tegulang resettlement site for the Penans affected by the dam.

They said throughout the 200-km journey from Bintulu to Murum over six hours on mostly dusty timber tracks, the journalists did not see any Penan manning the blockades as claimed by Sarawak Report on its website but instead saw an abandoned blockade site near the Murum dam.

Twenty-four journalists went on the trip to Murum Dam on Oct 30, 2013 while on Oct 29 they attended a one-day workshop on Understanding Hydropower, conducted by experts from SEB, who willingly answered tough questions that the participants had asked in Bintulu.

KDJA and CJA reminded Sarawak Report that it was a whole day workshop on Understanding Hydropower, not a briefing as it alleged, adding that: "It was an educational and informative workshop and among the questions asked was the concern of the downstream people should something happened to Murum dam".

"They also asked for the comparisons between the Murum dam and the Cameron Highland dam in Pahang as well as on why the need to build more dams or whether earthquakes could be triggered with the construction of so many dams in the interior of Sarawak," they said.

The participants also asked about the compensation paid to the Penans and how much they had demanded.

KDJA and CJA, which stressed that it was not their concern where the Penans set up their blockades, accused Sarawak Report of pitting the journalists against Penans erecting blockades.

"In the first place, it was not even the aim of the trip to the meet the Penans at the blockade sites," they said, adding that their sole objective was to have a first-hand information on the dam from the right source, not someone else.

"If they met the Penans at the blockade sites, it was purely co-incidental. At Tegulang, the journalists talked freely to the Penans about whether they were happy to be resettled," they said.

The two associations said it was, therefore, very demeaning that certain quarters had chosen to politicise the sincere efforts by SEB to organise the recent media trip, particularly as the journalists could observe for themselves without having to be told by someone else about the community.

"Never at any one time was anyone being dictated on what to write or not to write," they said. – Bernama