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Wednesday, Sept 23
Britain settles broadcast row with Malaysia
Reuters, AFP

KUALA LUMPUR: British broadcasters said yesterday they were able to transmit television footage of anti-government disturbances in Malaysia after officials with Queen Elizabeth complained about apparent jamming.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook intervened over the issue and told Malaysia to ensure that the Queen was not dragged during her state visit into political turmoil over the arrest of sacked Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

"We are pleased it has been resolved," Mr Cook's spokesman said yesterday. The Foreign Secretary, accompanying the Queen on her four-day visit ending tomorrow, had stressed to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad "the importance of ensuring that the state visit should not be caught up in internal controversy".

Britain on Monday had complained to Kuala Lumpur over the apparent jamming of television pictures showing images of the street protests which riot police broke up with tear gas and water cannons.

A Foreign Office spokesman in London said on Monday that Malaysian authorities had jammed the transmission of images by the British Broadcasting Corp and Independent Television News.

"We can confirm this is happening -- the jamming of the BBC and ITN signals -- and we are urgently pursuing the matter with the Malaysian authorities," the spokesman said.

Later on Monday, the row appeared to have been resolved with the BBC and ITN sending full packages to London for their bulletins.

"The feed went out OK. There were pictures of the protests and of Anwar's arrest," a BBC source said.

"Pictures are being sent smoothly now," an ITN source added.

A spokesman for the state-owned International Broadcasting Centre in Kuala Lumpur said the transmission of some of the images had been held up but not on purpose.

"It was caused by a momentary power failure," The Star newspaper quoted the spokesman as saying.

Meanwhile, Australia called on Malaysia yesterday to restore satellite links to foreign television stations that had been cut off to stop them from reporting civil unrest.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said it was unfortunate the satellite link shared between several television stations had been cut and called on Malaysia to restore communications.

Mr Downer said he had spoken to Malaysian High Commissioner Datuk Adnan Othman about the matter.

"It's important for Malaysia's international standing that there is a continuation of free-flow of information in and out of Malaysia," he said.

"It's legitimate that, given that we're a regional neighbour of Malaysia, Australia would want to know what's happening with one of its regional neighbours."

Australia's ABC television reported that its satellite feed from Kuala Lumpur had been interrupted and said Australian commercial stations had also been affected.

And New Zealand's TVNZ said it would demand answers from Malaysian authorities after its television pictures of Kuala Lumpur riots were also blocked. -- Reuters, AFP