Banned from Parliament lobby? Not the first and likely not the last time media faces problems there

Members of the media are not allowed to cross the red tape and into the lobby in Parliament. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
Members of the media are not allowed to cross the red tape and into the lobby in Parliament. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 ― Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia's decision to banish reporters from Parliament’s lobby area on Tuesday is not the first time media coverage has been restricted in the august House.

In 2008, the Speaker issued a similar ban but this was lifted after a huge outcry from members of the media.

Here, Malay Mail Online lists three other times journalists faced obstacles while trying to do their jobs covering proceedings in Parliament.

1. Limiting media personnel

In November 2015, Parliament limited the number of journalists from each news organisation to three, ostensibly due to space constraints as a result of upgrading works to its building at that time.

Media groups like the National Union of Journalists, Gerakan Media Marah, Institute of Journalists Malaysia, Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia, Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia and Malaysian Press Photographers Association slammed the decision, arguing that it would severely affect their ability to perform their duties.

Some Opposition MPs and even federal ministers like Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim criticised the move, saying it was not a "sensible idea."

However, that rule is still in place today even though the renovation has been completed.

2. PAC stops having press conferences

In November 2015, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Datuk Hasan Arifin decided to discontinue all press conferences by the parliamentary panel after accusing the media of “misreporting” a remark made by him which allegedly put him in a negative light.

Hasan made the “cari makan” comment when pressed by reporters to explain why the PAC would not question the prime minister while it was investigating 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

“It’s not necessary not necessary,” he first told reporters. “Janganlah saya pun mahu cari makan juga,” he said later in Bahasa Malaysia when questioned further.

[Translation: Don’t lah... I need to make a living too.]

Expressing his disappointment with the news outlets that he said had taken what he said out of context, the PAC chief said the panel would in future only communicate with the media through press releases.

3. Space constraints in Parliament

Before Dewan Rakyat resumed proceedings at the refurbished main Parliament building this month, reporters were allowed to gather only at one side of the temporary annexe lobby.

According to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said who is in charge of parliamentary affairs, this was to allow some space for government officers, researchers, and officers to MPs.

But reporters also had to contend with a small space where press conferences were held; a minister or lawmaker could stand at the podium while media personnel had to huddle together and squat in front.

Reporters also had to share their “space” with photographers and videographers.

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