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Speaker's first order: Restore reporters' access to Parliament lobby, says MP

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Even as doubts remain over the validity of Pakatan Harapan's choice of Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof as Dewan Rakyat speaker, one lawmaker has already given him his first task – to review the barring of journalists from the Parliament lobby.

Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran said today that whoever is ultimately picked as speaker when the first meeting of the first session convenes tomorrow, he or she must reverse the ruling laid down by former speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia last year.

He was referring to the controversial ruling in which members of the press covering Parliament were barred from the lobby due to alleged security concerns. 

Kulasegaran said that this prevented members of the press from reporting the truth.

"One of the first tasks for that pick (the new speaker) would be to reverse the ruling by the former Dewan Rakyat speaker Pandikar to banish media personnel to a 'dungeon' on a lower floor as some reporters use to put it.

"This ruling was in line with the former BN government rule; which prevented the truth of many issues from surfacin. Just look at the amount of debt the new government is dealing with, and you will get my point," the human resources minister said in a statement.

Kulasegaran added that reporters should be allowed to roam to lobby and interview MPs and ministers, in line with the new government's assurance to uphold democracy and press freedom.

"There should also not be any restrictions that prevent freedom of press, although the speaker could ask for decorum from the press and their respective organisations when they are allowed at the lobby.

"I want to see Malaysia's press freedom improve, and to voice out against crackdowns of journalists," he added.

In the future, Kulasegaran said, members of the media should be consulted, and journalists unions and groups – such as the National Union of Journalists – be heard before any decisions and laws concerning the media are made. 

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today confirmed that Ariff, a former Court of Appeal judge, is the new government's pick for Dewan Rakyat speaker.

However, standing orders require a name to be submitted 14 days before Parliament convenes for the first time.

It remains unclear if the new government complied with the requirement.

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