On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Reporter’s red tape nightmare

The Malaysia Tourism Board had invited 190 journalists from all over the world to cover this special event. The media invite included 17 Indonesian journalists including representatives from three television stations.  

They enjoyed the Floral Fest and the hospitality but Nila Tanzil, the host of Melancung Yuk, had plenty of complaints and with good reason too.  

She blogged (nilatanzil.blogspot.com) that she had asked for a letter from the Tourism Board confirming her as a guest of the country and allowing her easier movement.  

But an official told her that he needed two weeks to get that letter. 

Indonesia is bad when it comes to red tape but this reply was enough to astonish, if not disgust, the young Indonesian reporter.  

Having only six days to spend in town, more frustrations awaited her.  

The crew was barred from shooting at two shopping malls, which bewildered her because she assumed that Malaysia wanted to promote the country as a shopping destination.  

But still, she was prepared to keep an open mind because shopping complexes, even retail outlets, are sensitive over fears they would be exposed to rivals or copycats.  

The ban continued further when she went to the revolving restaurant at the KL Tower, the fourth tallest tower in the world.  

Luckily, Nila managed to get the public relations officer to help her, even though it was a Sunday. As a resourceful reporter, she obtained her phone number from a French journalist based in Kuala Lumpur.  

By this time, according to her blog, feathers had been ruffled and the Tourism Malaysia board representative in Jakarta was not amused. There was a loss of face, as expected.  

Nila was told that she should not call any parties directly from then on. For any journalist, who is only interested in getting the job done, this bureaucracy is a waste of time.  

In short, the whole episode of incompetence and low-level red tape left the Indonesian with a poor impression of our country.  

We do not know whether other journalists had similar complaints. We can only hope that Nila’s experience was an isolated one.  

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, his deputy Datuk Donald Lim and secretary-general Datuk Dr Victor Wee have all worked hard for the campaign.  

The last thing they need is poor execution from low-level officials.  

What’s missing are obviously guides trained to fulfil the requirements of the media. There are still 10 months before Visit Malaysia 2007 ends and hiccups like this need to be rectified.  

More importantly, the ministry must hear from the reporter and the officials involved as to what had actually taken place.  

It must be taken seriously because her complaints have made its rounds among Jakarta’s press fraternity and bloggers who have become a new but important and powerful alternative media source. 

Someone in the ministry has to explain to Nila and certainly to Malaysians who’ve read her complaints.