Journos appeal to Parliament for fair access

Date:

KUCHING: The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Gerakan Media Merdeka (GERAMM) and the National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJM) have called for fair and equal media access to in-house parliamentary proceedings at all times, especially during times of crisis.

They were disappointed with the repeated action of the Malaysian Parliament to restrict the media’s coverage of the proceedings of the upcoming Dewan Rakyat sitting to 16 media agencies.

“Almost two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, the issue of unequal access for media coverage remains unresolved. Media organisations should be given the freedom to cover parliament’s proceedings once the session resumes from Sept 13 to Oct 12 Oct this year,” they said in a joint media statement today (Sept 9).

CIJ, GERAMM and NUJM said any move to restrict coverage from media organisations is detrimental to press freedom, especially at a time when the top leadership are talking about institutional reforms and good governance.

Only 16 media outlets will be allowed to attend and perform coverage for the upcoming Dewan Rakyat sitting in Parliament, according to a press statement by Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun.

This is similar to what happened during the last Parliament sitting in Oct 2020, with only minor changes to the permitted list of media, they added.

The organisations also called upon the speaker to explain the reason, if any, why selected media companies are specifically not allowed to physically cover the proceedings.

Azhar’s statement made no reference as to how the selection for permitted media outlets was conducted, raising questions on the double standards and transparency of the process.

“They need to justify their reasons by allowing access to selected media and for fairness, should only allow coverage for official media instead.

“In many cases, the authorities, government or organisers appear to undermine the role of the media as the fourth estate, who are crucial in ensuring a healthy democracy,” they pointed out.

They said this is clear as authorities continue to impose undue restrictions that failed to consider not only the needs of media personnel but the bigger role of a free press.

They insisted that in this case, should it still be necessary to limit the number of media organisations in Parliament, the existing Parliament press organisations should discuss and decide on how to take turns based on individual plans for coverage.

“The same concept can be applied for all physical coverage in times of the pandemic, rather than a unilateral decision made by authorities or organisers.

“We demand the restrictions be immediately lifted to protect the rights of the media and create an enabling and safe environment for the media to fulfil their role without discriminatory restrictions and interference”.

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