KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 — Three journalists groups criticised Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia for banning media workers from speaking to lawmakers at the Parliament lobby today.
In a joint statement, Gerakan Media Merdeka, Institute of Journalists Malaysia and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia pointed out that there are no laws forbidding media personnel from the area.
“Nothing in the law or Standing Orders forbids journalists from accessing parliamentarians, so long as it is not within the Dewan themselves.
“By herding journalists to the media gallery, located far from where the MPs conduct their proceedings, our ability to carry out responsible, timely and accurate reporting; especially with regards to the esteemed lawmakers, will be greatly impaired,” they said.
They added that the ban will also negatively impact press freedom, freedom of expression and democracy in the country and urged Pandikar to reverse his decision.
The National Union of Journalists had also criticised the ban in a separate statement earlier, saying the move was akin to a crackdown on journalists.
Pandikar had likened the gathering of journalists at the Parliament lobby to a “picnic”, adding that they made MPs, himself included, uncomfortable.
However, he gave security as the main reason for the ban and cited Standing Order 94 of the Parliamentary House Rules to justify his decision to decide where journalists can be within the parliamentary grounds.
Reporters regularly work at the lobby in order to pursue ministers and other lawmakers who do not visit the media room to provide their statements.
Journalists are currently restricted to the media room located a floor below the Dewan Rakyat.