National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Mohd Taufek Razak has condemned Parliament's move to ban journalist along its hallway, describing it as a crackdown on journalists trying to gain access to information.
Taufek in a statement today said that it had received several reports about the latest ban issued by speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia.
NUJ, he said believed that this was a way to prevent journalists from getting direct access to information from the MPs.
“As long as journalists do not violate Parliament's rules, the ban can be considered as a crackdown on journalists accessing any information worthy of news,” he said.
“NUJ strongly condemns this ban which could clearly depict Malaysia does not practise media freedom and most crucially, it should not be happening in Parliament which, in the first place is a reflection of the symbol of democracy in the country,” Taufek added.
It was reported today that Pandikar made the ruling banning media from stationing themselves at the hallway outside the Dewan Rakyat with immediate effect.
The speaker claimed this was for the security of the lawmakers from both sides of the political divide.
He cited Section 94 of the Standing Order, which empowered him to allow certain parties to stay at a specific area in the house.
Pandikar claimed some lawmakers, himself included, were not comfortable with the reporters' presence in the hallway.
"I saw for myself that they sit everywhere, as though the hallway (ruang legar) was a picnic area," he said.
Many media practitioners from both mainstream and non-mainstream outlets have also voiced their disagreements to the ruling.
"Nothing in the Parliamentary Act or laws forbid journalists to do their job in this country.
"By herding journalists to the media gallery, located far from the action, our ability to carry out responsible, fast and accurate reporting; especially with regard to the esteemed lawmakers, will be greatly reduced.
"We urge the Speaker to review the ruling and for the lawmakers to view this matter as an attack on the freedom of press in the country - something that as a democratic country should be fought and be responsible for together.
"This statement is endorsed by Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm), Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IOJM) and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia (FCCM).
"We, the undersigned media groups, wish to register our objections to Dewan Rakyat speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia's reported ruling earlier today to ban media from accosting MPs in Parliament.
According to reports, Pandikar had said that all media personnel should only stay at the dedicated press centre or media gallery.
"We note that a meeting was held between a group of media personnel and Pandikar this afternoon to discuss the matter but the ruling still remains for now.
"We felt that the ruling will restricted reporters' movement and will further erode press freedom in the country."