A Malaysian paper which had published a highly controversial report accusing the Penan tribe of practising incest has been forced to apologize to the members of the tribe.
The current report has been one of the latest in a string of inaccurate and derogatory stories about the Penan and their way of life in the Malaysian press.
The article which was published on the front page of the Malay language tabloid Metro Ahad claimed that incest was common amongst nomadic Penan communities in the Ulu Baram area. The report was titled "My mother's, my wife, my father's, my husband" suggesting the prevalence of the practice of incest in the region.
The paper was forced to withdraw the article and apologise publicly after a Penan chief in the Ula Baram area went to the police.
"We the Penans, condemn the report which is written and based on lies. The report has resulted in our community being despised. The report makes the Penan look like animals," Survival International quoted Balan Balang saying.
His complaint forced Metro Ahad to concede: "We have been informed that the Penans do not practise incest."
The human rights organisation, Survival, also reported that the extent of the article's controversy also reportedly prompted Sarawak's chief minister, who is personally responsible for the destruction of much of the Penan's forest, to advise people not to make negative remarks about any race.
This is not the first time that tribal people have been subjected to derogatory terms. Often, terms like primitive and Stone Age have been used to describe them which can be dangerous as this can lead to situations like poverty, prostitution and disease.
Another recent scandal involving the misrepresentation of the Penan was published in The Borneo Post, which is owned by KTS, a Malaysian timber company.
The article allegedly misquoted a Penan leader as saying his tribe no longer wanted to oppose logging or to work with environmental groups in the area.
In a sign the Penan are no longer willing to accept misrepresentation of their views, he has since demanded a full apology saying the words were put "irresponsibly and unethically into my mouth".