Minister: Review media ban from Parliament lobby

New Dewan Rakyat speaker urged to reverse a ruling made by his predecessor

by AZREEN HANI / pic by AFIF ABD HALIM

The new Dewan Rakyat speaker should reverse the ruling that bans media personnel from the Parliament lobby, said Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran (picture).

Kulasegaran said the ruling — which was made by former speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia — does not only prevent press from carrying out their duties, it also “prevented the truth of many issues from surfacing”.

“This ruling was in line with the former Barisan Nasional government’s rule which prevented the truth of many issues from surfacing — just look at the amount of debt the new government is dealing with and you will get my point,” Kulasegaran said in a statement yesterday.

“The new Dewan Rakyat speaker needs to review this and allow reporters the freedom to roam the lobby to interview MPs and ministers, which will be in line with the new government’s assurance to uphold democracy,” he added. The minister stressed that there should also not be any restrictions that prevent the freedom of press.

However, he opines that the speaker could ask for decorum from the press and their respective organisations when they are allowed at the lobby.

In March this year, Pandikar Amin issued a ruling which banned media practitioners from gathering at the Parliament lobby with immediate effect.

The ban means that the press would only be allowed to cover Dewan Rakyat proceedings from the media centre.

The decision, he said, was made upon complaints from lawmakers who were not comfortable with the presence of reporters at the Parliament lobby.

“So, I have decided that the media personnel who are in Parliament must report the Dewan Rakyat proceedings or press conferences given by MPs from the media centre — effective immediately,” Pandikar Amin had said then.

The ruling was met with criticisms by the National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJ) and Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia who had described it as an attempt to restrict reporters’ ability to put issues of national interest to elected representatives, and result in eroding press freedom in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Kulasegaran also suggested journalist unions and groups such as NUJ should be given a chance to be heard before any decision or law about the media is made.

“The media and its personnel should be consulted through discussions and even town hall sessions,” said Kulasegaran.

“I want to see Malaysia’s press freedom improve and to voice out against crackdowns of journalists.”