A Response from Deforestation Watch to the BBC program called “The
End of the Jungle” hosted by Angus Stickler on 7th January 2010
“The lofty editorial guidelines issued pursuant to the BBC Charter reads:
lies at the heart of the BBC’s commitment to its audiences. It applies
across all of our services and output, whatever the format, from radio
news bulletins via our web sites to our commercial magazines and
includes a commitment to reflecting a diversity of opinion.”
Agreement accompanying the BBC’s Charter requires us to produce
comprehensive, authoritative and impartial coverage of news and current
affairs in the UK and throughout the world to support fair and informed
debate. It specifies that we should do all we can to treat
controversial subjects with due accuracy and impartiality in our news
services and other programmes dealing with matters of public policy or
of political or industrial controversy. It also states that the BBC is
forbidden from expressing an opinion on current affairs or matters of
public policy other than broadcasting.”
The guidelines promise:
“In practice, our commitment to impartiality means:
we seek to provide a properly balanced service consisting of a wide
range of subject matter and views broadcast over an appropriate time
scale across all our output. We take particular care when dealing with
political or industrial controversy or major matters relating to
current public policy.
· we strive to reflect a wide range of
opinion and explore a range and conflict of views so that no
significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under
· we exercise our editorial freedom to produce
content about any subject, at any point on the spectrum of debate as
long as there are good editorial reasons for doing so.
· we can
explore or report on a specific aspect of an issue or provide an
opportunity for a single view to be expressed, but in doing so we do
not misrepresent opposing views. They may also require a right of reply.
· we must ensure we avoid bias or an imbalance of views on controversial subjects.
the approach to, and tone of, BBC stories must always reflect our
editorial values. Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the
public face and voice of the BBC, they can have a significant impact on
the perceptions of our impartiality.
· our journalists and
presenters, including those in news and current affairs, may provide
professional judgments but may not express personal opinions on matters
of public policy or political or industrial controversy. Our audiences
should not be able to tell from BBC programmes or other BBC output the
personal views of our journalists and presenters on such matters.
we offer artists, writers and entertainers scope for individual
expression in drama, arts and entertainment and we seek to reflect a
wide range of talent and perspective.
· we will sometimes need to
report on or interview people whose views may cause serious offence to
many in our audiences. We must be convinced, after appropriate
referral, that a clear public interest outweighs the possible offence.
we must rigorously test contributors expressing contentious views
during an interview whilst giving them a fair chance to set out their
full response to our questions.
· we should not automatically
assume that academics and journalists from other organisations are
impartial and make it clear to our audience when contributors are
associated with a particular viewpoint.”
ensure that the BBC adheres to its strict code of editorial
impartiality. In fact, the accuracy and impartiality of the BBC’s
science coverage, including eco-issues such as global warming, are to
be investigated by the BBC Trust. Says Richard Tait, the chair of the
BBC Trust’s editorial standards committee: “Heated debate in recent
years around topics like climate change, genetically modified crops and
the MMR vaccine reflects this, and BBC reporting has to steer a course
through these controversial issues while remaining impartial.”
BBC Trust said today that the review would assess news and factual
output that refers to scientific findings, “particularly science output
relating to current public policy and matters of political controversy”.
trust added that for the review science will be defined as not just the
natural sciences but also “those aspects of technology, medicine and
the environment that entail scientific statements, research findings or
other claims made by scientists”.
This is the third impartiality
review that the BBC has carried out, following an investigation of
business coverage in 2007 and the devolved nations last year.
Watch observes however, that the BBC’s editorial guidelines on
impartiality appeared to be honored by its breach rather than its
observance, especially vis a vis its coverage of the palm oil and
Take the recent BBC program “The End of the
Jungle”, hosted by Angus Stickler who accused the Malaysian government
and the palm oil industry of “laying waste to the last remaining
rainforests of Borneo in what has been described as a corporate land
grab.” Stickler further alleged: “It’s estimated that only 3 percent
of the primary rainforest of Malaysian Borneo remains.”
An examination of the facts shows that Mr. Stickler appears to have a propensity for gross exaggeration and hyperbole!
Let’s examine the facts.
Malaysian Borneo is made up of the states of Sabah and Sarawak.
According to the FAO, “Malaysia has a total land area of 330 242 km2
(33 million ha). Peninsular Malaysia has an area of 131,573km², while
Sabah and Sarawak cover 73,711km² and 124,449km² respectively.”
is one of the few remaining heavily forested tropical countries with 61
percent of total land area of 20.06 million ha covered with natural
forest . Dipterocarp forest constitutes the bulk of Malaysia’s forest
areas (89 percent), followed by peat swamp forest (7 percent), mangrove
forest (3 percent), and planted forest (1 percent).”
total forest area 5.97 million ha are in Peninsular Malaysia, 4.25
million in Sabah, and 9.84 million in Sarawak (Table 1).” In other
words, Malaysian Borneo alone accounts for more than 70% of the forest
cover in Malaysia.
Region Area (millions ha)
Sabah 7.40 4.10 0.15 4.25 57.4
Sarawak 12.44 9.81 0.03 9.84 79.1
Malaysia 33.00 19.81 0.25 20.06 60.8
Table 1 above, it is clear that as at 2001, the forest cover in the
state of Sarawak alone stands at a whopping 79.1% whilst Sabah can
boast forest cover of 57.4%.
It behooves one to ask, just how
Stickler could arrive at the conclusion that “only 3 percent of the
primary rainforest of Malaysian Borneo remains”!
On the issue of
the displacement of native land in Borneo, Stickler goes on to point
out that “the Kayan and other tribes are fighting in the courts. They
say they have documents to prove their right to the land.” According to
Stickler, “Harrison Ngau, who is heading the legal challenge,” told
him: “The natives are subsistence farmers, hunters, gatherers,
fishermen – a simple people”.
Perhaps Mr Stickler should be
apprised of the recent ruling by Malaysia’s highest court affirming the
land rights of indigenous people which exposes the lie that native
people are being displaced with impunity.
A panel of three
Federal Court judges unanimously ruled that tribes have customary
ownership of land they have lived on for generations and state
governments cannot take it from them without compensation.
tribes, who mostly live in poor settlements in the jungles of Borneo,
argue that the land is theirs because they have lived on it for
generations. In 2007 the Federal Court ruled that a family of the
Kedayan group in Sarawak state on Borneo had rights over land they used
and that they should be compensated. The government had taken over the
land in the 1990s to grant it for oil exploration.
government sought a final review of the decision in the
more-than-decade-old case, but recently another Federal Court panel
upheld the ruling in favor of the family.
Last year in an
unprecedented move, the Malaysian government said it would grant
ownership of farming land to about 20,000 indigenous families to
improve their lives.
The fact that indigenous tribes in
Malaysian Borneo could successfully seek relief in a court of law in
Malaysia, in the view of Deforestation Watch, disproves the wild and
disingenuous imputations of Mr. Stickler that they are being driven off
their land with impunity!
Trust would care to look into this gross violation of the BBC’s
editorial guidelines by a less than impartial and ethical reporter in
Mr. Stickler. Would the BBC Trust care?
Source : Malaysia-Today.net