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TDM’s closing “Macau Forum”, Pereira Coutinho calls it “a big joke”

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The weekly outdoor program Macau Forum came to a sudden suspension at the new year, according to its organizer TDM. Lawmaker José Maria Pereira Coutinho slammed the cessation as “a big joke”.
Speaking to Times yesterday, Coutinho commented that the program was a platform for Macau people to put forth and discuss problems of public concern. “But now such platforms are fewer and fewer in Macau. I am afraid that maybe they will cancel the radio program Ou Mun Gong Ceong as the next step”.  
On Sunday, the program producer told the media that the outdoor program Macau Forum, which has a live-broadcast each Sunday morning from the Ha Sa Wan park (Jardim da Areia Preta), will stop because of “manpower issues”. The producer Mr Yuen Hoi Gwai said the program demands a great number of producers, photographers, journalists as well as hosts, imposing certain pressures upon the news department. Another concern for the committee is the up-coming election for the Legislative Assembly this year, as stated by Yuen. However, the program is said to restart within this year.
Responding to TDM’s reason of “lack of staff”, Coutinho questioned: “It is a big joke. What is more important? Cooking and dancing programs? What kind of priorities do they set?”
The legislator told some Chinese newspapers that the government has been devoting a lot of money to TDM, “From MOP80 million in the past to MOP160 million, the organization is like a government department”.
Coutinho pointed out that journalists leave the organization because of the “censorship”, according to his contacts with some “former TDM journalists”; said the lawmaker, “Their work is being censored”. He criticized the news program for placing negative news in the second part as being a “downgrade” of quality. “They are screening topics, specifically political issues”.
As for the organization’s alleged intension of focusing on the forthcoming election, the lawmaker doesn’t see any connection between the two. He suggested that the whole procedure of AL election should be broadcast to let more residents know about issues upon which to “focus”.
Separately, he slammed another current affairs commentary program Fung Fo Toi for inviting some former legislative candidates as hosts of the show, which might lead to unfair competition during the AL election. He thus questioned the organization why such procedural decisions are not made open to the public. Meanwhile, Coutinho disclosed “according to his source” that the former candidate legislator Agnes Lam has been invited by TDM to be the host of the commentary program and a related contract has been signed between the two parties. However, when MDT spoke with Lam, she denied the deal saying: “No contracts will be signed between TDM and their guest speakers. When they think the topic may fit some guests, they will invite those people, and you only take part if you are interested in doing so. Currently I am invited to the show once or twice a month”. Lam said she relinquished the guest host role when she was running for the election in 2009. 

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