Posted by SM Maulana
Tuesday (21 June) was the the darkest day of the media history of Malaysia as the great hall of democracy has openly suppressed the freedom of press.
Without any advanced notice, red tape has been used to cordon off the lobby of the House to stop journalists entering the area. This is another ridiculous act of the House after the notice faxed to media organisations to limit the number of pressmen covering Parliament to five at any one time for security reasons.
It is harder to understand that some journalists were being unreasonably questioned, including the inspection of personal belongings. Journalists were being treated as suspects. In order to express their dissatisfactions and to defend the dignity of journalists, pressmen from various media organisations, including those from electronic media reported only on events in the House while boycotting events held at the lobby.
When we heard of such unreasonable and unlawful weird phenomenon, it was hard to believe that these perverse acts did actually occur in the Parliament House of Malaysia which was said to be democratic, open and free to expression. From the professional stand of the press, we must to severely condemn the House for the suppression of the freedom of the press and the humiliating acts against journalists.
Democratic politics is based on public opinion and the formation of public opinion relies on the communications and reasonable thoughts among all members of the society. However, the prerequisite would be for the public to rely on the mass media to rapidly and completely know what is going on in the country, what is the problem and what are the responses and comments? Only by knowing the truth, the people can communicate without mistrust and to reasonably think without distortions.
The current acts of the Parliament House are contrary to the principles mentioned above. It has not only refused to be approached by journalists but sees journalists as its enemies. It forced the journalists to stay in their cramped “media corner”. This is a spectacle that we cannot find in any other democratic countries in the world. This is in fact a very unwise act.
“Such despicable acts in the House could not be tolerated regardless of any excuse.”
This act has underestimated the power of public opinion and the public’s ability to think. The ruling party and the government were initially in a favourable position, shaping their liberal image through the media. But now, they have trapped themselves in the disadvantageous position after limiting and even forbidding the media to do their job. The government image is seriously damaged overnight. Moreover, a minister responsible for the Parliament affairs even confidently rationalised the limitation of the number of pressmen covering Parliament at any one time. It was disgusting and offensive to anyone with basic common sense and could think rationally and objectively.
The House should understand that nothing can be covered up in today’s society with rapid flow of information. This is, in fact, setting a trap for themselves. The Federal Constitution stipulates the freedom of speech for the people and the freedom of the press for the media. The House must not directly or indirectly intervene, hinder, limit or deprive the freedom of the press. Also, it must not use its power to make pressmen fear of reporting.
In a democratic society, restricting news reporting and not respecting journalists means paying no respect to the whole society. Such despicable acts in the House could not be tolerated regardless of any excuse.
The incident in the House gave an impression that the authority was lack of tolerance for legitimate criticisms but allowed for some people’s unreasonableness and suppression of the freedom of the press. If the authority keeps on tolerate such acts, it will harm the lofty status of the House, as well as the good reputation of the nation.
We hope that the Parliament House will immediately cancel the unreasonable restriction for news coverage and restore the freedom of the press. We hope that it can be brave to reveal the facts, allowing the media to be the communication channel between the people and the House, so that the people can rapidly and fully understand the meeting situation in the House. (Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE/ Sin Chew Daily)