Geramm condemns arrests of two Australian journalists covering PM’s Sarawak event

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Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm) condemns the arrests of two journalists from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation while on duty in Sarawak last night.

Geramm views the arrests of reporter Linton Besser and camera operator Louis Eroglu from ABC’S ‘Four Corners’ programme as yet another attack on press freedom.

According to the ABC, the duo were in Malaysia as part of their coverage on financial scandals linked to 1MDB and the RM2.6bn donation scandal implicating Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Sarawak CID chief Dev Kumar in a statement said reporter Linton Besser and camera operator Louis Eroglu from ABC’S ‘Four Corners’ programme were detained while approaching Najib at a function in Kota Sentosa, Kuching.

The duo were released on police bail this morning but their passports were seized pending further investigations under Section 186 of the Penal Code for obstructing a public servant in the discharge of his public functions.

Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar later said the the attorney general’s chambers would be determining further action to be taken.

National news agency Bernama quoted Khalid as saying that their action was “improper” as the prime minister’s programme was not an interview or media conference session.

Geramm would like to point out that since assuming office in 2009, press conferences by Najib have been few and far between.

The press conferences held in his capacity as Umno president after chairing the party’s supreme council meeting, meanwhile, is not open to all journalists.

This, in effect, greatly reduces the opportunity for journalists to question or seek clarification from Najib on any issue – including the 1MDB and RM2.6bn ‘donation’ scandal, which has made international headlines.

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Also, we note that statements issued via an unnamed ‘government spokesperson’ would carry less weight with the international media.

Eyewitnesses at the area also claim that the Aussie duo did not acted aggressively and threateningly towards the prime minister and behaved as other journalists covering the PM’s event in Kuala Lumpur.

While Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had reportedly said that the security cordon and subsequent arrests should not be seen as a threat to press freedom, Geramm maintains that it is so.

We also believe that the incident could have been avoided if a public official, in this case the prime minister himself, had been more open to being questioned on matters of public importance.

In a related matter Geramm also wants to condemn PMSP president Ramesh Rao’s statement that his office were “trespassed” by foreign journalists.

When a press conference is called, the party has to be ready to answer questions from any media that attends the PC as it was not a “by invite” only event.

Perhaps Ramesh should have thought things through first before calling for a PC with such issues.

Geramm is a loose coalition of journalists, media representatives and activists who are fighting for freedom of the press and its practitioners.

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