by NURUL SUHAIDI & SHAFIQQUL ALIFF/pic source by malaysianbar.org.my
THE Malaysian Bar expresses its support toward press freedom while noting that journalists must be allowed to do their jobs without fear of being intimidated, assaulted and harassed.
Its president Karen Cheah Yee Lynn (picture) said press freedom is a hallmark of a mature democracy, and the reporters and journalists serve a pivotal role in the society.
“The news carried by them shed light on the workings of our public institutions,” she said in a statement recently, following a viral video of an incident at UTC Pudu Sentral on a security guard intimidating members of the press and the public.
According to media reports, the reporters were subjected to verbal intimidation and were obstructed from doing their job while they tried to take photographs and speak to individuals queuing at the UTC.
“The press should be permitted to do their job, and open dialogue should not be suppressed.
“Such rights cannot be wantonly sacrificed without proper reasoning.
“This is because a responsible and free press informs us about public affairs and educates us through sparking intellectual debate and discussion, which then facilitates good governance,” Cheah added.
She also highlighted that press freedom is interconnected with the right and freedom of speech and expression under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
Not only that, but according to the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, Malaysia’s press freedom ranking dropped from 101 to 119 last year.
“This downgrade serves as a reminder for Malaysians that press freedom in the country is endangered and more needs to be done to improve the situation,” she said.
She reiterated that the Malaysian Bar firmly supports that press freedom and freedom of expression must be upheld when legitimately exercised in good faith.
“We believe that the external oversight body that would hold the police accountable for its behaviour, such as an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) had already been established prior to this.
“Those bodies have the power to diminish such doubtful hasty decisions being made as seen in this incident,” she said.
Media, on the other hand, can lodge its complaints directly to the IPCMC, if their reports are mishandled or there is inaction by the police.
“As long as proper safety measures are employed, the press must be permitted to do their job and ensure that the public is well-informed about matters that concern them,” she added.