COMMENT The Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IoJ) is deeply concerned to find that Malaysiakini had recalled its reporter Kow Gah Chie from Sarawak last Saturday for safety reasons during the news portal’s coverage of the state election.
According to Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan, the decision was made after Kow’s photograph was circulated on social media, following her news report on BN incumbent Nangka assemblyman Dr Annuar Rapaee’s speech at a seminar in Sibu on April 21. He had reportedly claimed that he was taken out of context.
We strongly condemn the harassment of Kow on social media. Journalists should not be subjected to threats of harm for doing their jobs.
If newsmakers feel that they have been taken out of context, they can contact the relevant media organisation and request a correction. They can also issue a statement and make clarifications.
It was also reported that the police are investigating Kow under Section 505(c) of the Penal Code after six police reports were lodged over her article.
Section 505(c) states that it is an offence when one “makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report - with intent to incite or which is likely to incite any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community of persons”.
Initiating a criminal investigation against a journalist for their work is tantamount to harassment by the authorities, regardless of allegations of inaccuracies in a news report.
Again, the aggrieved party has ample legal recourse to seek redress and it is not for the police, or for any other authority, to act on the aggrieved party's behalf in what is ultimately a civil matter.
We urge the police to instead probe if there were threats made against Kow and also to investigate the invasion of her privacy, as her photograph was circulated on social media without her consent.
Such incidents present a real risk for journalists, who already face numerous legal, and in some cases physical, hazards in their daily work.
Journalists must be allowed to do their jobs without fear of reprisal from the state or threats of violence from individuals.
THE INSTITUTE OF JOURNALISTS MALAYSIA is the professional organisation of Malaysian journalists.