KUALA LUMPUR – March 22, 2017: Journalists are pressuring the Dewan Rakyat speaker to reconsider the restriction imposed on those covering the parliamentary proceedings.
Yesterday, speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia said journalists will, with immediate effect, no longer be allowed at parliament’s lobby due to security concerns.
They should instead do their work either in the designated press room or the media gallery located a floor below the Dewan Rakyat.
Citing Standing Order 94 of the Parliamentary House Rules, he pointed out that he was allowed to permit or ban any journalist’s coverage within parliament’s grounds.
Responding to the ban, four media groups denounced the ruling, claiming that it can be construed as an attempt to stifle press freedom.
The groups are the National Union of Journalist (NUJ), Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm), Institute of Journalist Malaysia (IOJM) and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia (FCCM).
NUJ described the ban as a crackdown on journalists from obtaining direct access to parliamentary proceedings and newsworthy information.
“It should not be happening with parliament which in the first place is a reflection to the symbol of democracy in the country,” wrote NUJ president Mohd. Taufek Razak in a statement yesterday.
The others argue that there is nothing in the law or parliament’s Standing Orders that forbids journalist from accessing parliamentarians, so long as it is not within the Dewan Rakyat itself.
“We urge the speaker to review the ruling and for the lawmakers themselves to take serious note of how this will negatively impact press freedom, freedom of expression and democracy in the country,” read a joint statement from Geramm, IOJM and FCCM.
Former Utusan Malaysia editor-in-chief Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin said the ban proved that the government had failed to understand the importance of fostering close ties with journalists.
Zainuddin ,who is now one of the leading critics of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said the ban would hamper journalists’ efforts to kill fake news.
“I think the government imposed the ban mainly because they are too focused on the supposed negative side of journalism to the point that they do not see the good side of it,” Zainuddin said.