Malaysian media advocates to government: Explain ban on journalists covering parliament

25 June 2008
Source: Centre for Independent Journalism

Media advocates in Malaysia are calling on government to explain new limitations placed on journalists’ access to parliament. The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), SEAPA’s Alerts partner in Kuala Lumpur, in a statement issued on 25 June 2008, said it is “deeply concerned about the ban imposed by the parliament on journalists in the parliament lobby.”

Online daily Malaysiakini reported on 24 and 25 June that the parliament lobby, the place where members of parliament meet, hold informal meetings and answer questions by journalists has been cordoned off to prevent media from accessing the area.

Four days earlier, the parliament had issued a letter to the media which said it would limit access to coverage of parliament to only five representitves from each medium.
The restrictions are being protested by the National Union of Journalist (NUJ) and some parliamentarians.

CIJ says the new rules are premised on “security concerns”. But “the presence of journalists in the parliament lobby should not be seen as a security liability as  they have an important duty to report to the public. Restricting the number of journalists in public institutions such as the parliament is tantamount to restricting freedom of the press,” CIJ said.

The group noted that parliament already “imposes strict conditions for reporters to cover, and online news sites (in fact) have to apply for special passes as they do not have the accreditation tags issued by the Information Ministry.” On this ground, CIJ rejected the statement by Deputy Speaker Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar linking the presence of journalists with a “chaotic” parliament.

“We ask Wan Junaidi to retract his statement and apologise to journalists who are performing their duties to report on not only the parliamentary proceedings but also issues and statements at the lobby,” CIJ’s statement said. “In addition, the Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia must spell out the security concerns and explain the threats he is referring to that warrant such ban. Without clear justifications and an explanation, the order smacks of an attempt to minimise the coverage of… the current political scenarios in the country. Otherwise, journalists should be allowed to move freely in the parliament to perform their duties.”

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