The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is concerned that journalists continue to be harassed at political parties' functions. In the latest incident, a journalist and a photographer with a Tamil daily claimed that they were singled out and threatened by the president of the MIC.
Makkal Osai recently reported that at a Nov 16 dinner meeting of MIC leaders, the president, S Samy Vellu, decided to cut short his speech and leave when the audience paid him little heed. On his way out, Samy Vellu seized the camera of Makkal Osai photographer M Samy and demanded its journalist S Venugar not to write about what transpired.
Online daily Malaysiakini reported that Samy Vellu had some of the pictures in the photographer's camera erased while the politician's bodyguard uttered an ominous-sounding threat to Venugar. Both of them lodged a police report on the incident the next day.
When contacted by CIJ, Samy Vellu's press secretary, E Sivabalan declined to give a comment.
CIJ notes with concern the growing threats by members of political parties - both government and opposition - against journalists, which also infringe on the rights of journalists to exercise their duty to the public.
CIJ regrets the continued barring of reporters from Malay daily Utusan Malaysia by the federal opposition pact, Pakatan Rakyat, from its events over unethical reporting issues. While these are legitimate concerns, the approach taken by Pakatan is hardly reflective of their proclaimed democratic ideals.
CIJ calls upon all political parties to treat media professionals with respect. The media are the eyes and ears of the public. Any restrictions on the media is a violation of the public's right to information.
CIJ foresees that such violations of media freedom will continue with the increasingly volatile political landscape. The problem can only be resolved with overall reform of media, from eliminating state control through ownership and legislation to establishing self-regulation measures such as an independent media council as well as a plural media.
The first step that legislators can take is to initiate a Parliamentary Select Committee on media freedom.
CIJ aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free, where all people enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek, and impart information.
The writer is communications officer for The Centre for Independent Journalism.