Journalist groups object to ban on ‘accosting’ MPs in Parliament

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Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

Gerakan Media Merdeka, Institute of Journalists Malaysia and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia wish to register our respectful objection to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia’s ruling earlier today to ban media personnel from purportedly accosting MPs in Parliament.

According to reports, Pandikar had said that all journalists should only stay at the dedicated press centre or media gallery, instead of being able to wait in the lobby outside the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara.

The ruling, which takes immediate effect, was also made on grounds of security – that of lawmakers from both sides of the political divide.

We note that a meeting was held between a group of media personnel and the speaker this afternoon to discuss the matter but the ruling still remains for now.

However, we must express our deep concern that the ruling will restrict reporters’ ability to put issues of national interest to our elected representatives and result in eroding press freedom – already seen to be on the decline – in the country.

Many media practitioners across various platforms have also voiced their disagreement with the ruling. This includes the National Union of Journalist (NUJ) Malaysia.

Nothing in the law or Standing Orders forbids journalists from accessing parliamentarians, so long as it is not within the Dewans themselves.

By herding journalists to the media gallery, located far from where the MPs conduct their proceedings, our ability to carry out responsible, timely and accurate reporting; especially with regard to the esteemed lawmakers, will be greatly impaired.

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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 – all issues which democratically elected officials must defend and pursue as core principles.

This statement is endorsed by Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm), Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IOJM) and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia (FCCM). All three groups are prepared to meet Pandikar and/or his staff, to discuss solutions to issues facing parliamentary coverage.

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