Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Media Boycott Over Parliament Access

More than 100 journalists covering the ongoing Parliament sitting are staging a boycott after the Parliament administration restricted media access to the lobby and barricaded the area.


journalist media barred from parliament lobby area 240608 07Journalists from all print, online and electronic media decided to only cover the proceedings in the Dewan Rakyat and boycott all the press conferences or events held outside of the chamber.

The journalists were outraged and stunned by the latest ruling which has resulted in the entire lobby being barricaded, apparently on security grounds.

This move has restricted the journalists from moving around freely in the lobby or approaching MPs directly.

This is the first time that Parliament has enforced such a ruling. No clear explanation has been given to media representatives so far about the ruling.

"There will be fewer stories'

Last Friday, the Parliament administration issued a notice to all media informing them that they could only send up to five journalists to cover the ongoing session, on security grounds as well.

journalist media barred from parliament lobby area 240608 06After the March 8 election where the ruling BN suffered its worst outing, an average of 100 journalists have been covering parliamentary proceedings on each day of its sitting.

This was in light of the apparent change in the political landscape as well as a result of the presence of almost all ministers or deputies in the House.

English-language daily Star assistant news editor Lee Yuk Peng criticised the ruling, saying that the journalists should be able to move freely in Parliament to perform their duties.

"We should be the last group to be linked with security concerns," Lee, who started covering the Parliament beat in 1997.

"(The impact is) there will be fewer stories. It takes two hands to clap - many ministers can't wait to talk to the journalists or give them stories," she added.

Deputy speaker non-committal

Opposition MP Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan) also protested in the House, saying that the ruling is tantamount to a clampdown on press freedom.

"There is no justification whatsoever for restricting reporters to a small corner as if they pose a grave danger to security and a threat to the safety of parliamentarians. No MP has ever suffered personal injury or threats from reporters accredited to cover the Parliament," he said.

"By imposing such restrictions merely for the personal comfort and conveniences of certain individuals would contravene the basic spirit of democracy and respect the sanctity of Parliament where reporters can carry out their duties to communicate debate on policy in an accurate and professional manner."

He urged Parliament administrators to withdraw the rule.

journalist media barred from parliament lobby area 240608 03Deputy Speaker Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, who was presiding over the sitting this morning, was non-committal, saying that he would have to first discuss the matter with speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia and the other deputy speaker, Ronald Kiandee.

"There was discussion with the speaker and deputy speaker during the last session on how to control the situation at the lobby.

"The decision has been made and I will have to discuss this with the speaker before we can announce any new decision (on the review of the ruling) tomorrow or the day after," said Wan Junaidi, who added that he respects the journalistic profession.

The protest by the journalists is set to affect a press conference called by Pakatan Rakyat MPs from Kuala Lumpur to discuss the Draft KL City Plan. The press conference is to be held in the Parliament lobby at 12.45pm today.

Similiarly, a press conference by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak will also be affected.

Najib will chair two meetings in the Parliament building today - one of which is the Umno management committee meeting. He is expected to call a press conference in the afternoon.