KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) has condemned the latest ruling by Parliament administrators that limited the number of media agencies allowed to cover the upcoming Dewan Rakyat sitting from November 2 to December 23.
In a Facebook post today, the media group said it strongly rejects any move that restricts freedom of the press.
“We call on responsible parties to assist and facilitate broader media coverage by opening up a larger room in Parliament, in compliance with physical distancing requirements,” said the advocacy group.
They added that previously, the media were free to conduct interviews around the parliament building and hopes that the current movement restriction will not be used as an excuse by any parliamentarians or ministers to avoid answering any arising questions.
“There must be an avenue for the media to access parliamentarians or ministers who should be present at a designated press conference area to provide any needed explanations.”
Geramm said the media plays a key role in the check and balance system — to ‘look after’ the government so that its function remains in compliance with the law and regulations.
“The government does not need to ‘look after’ the media because the media will look after the media!,” they said.
Yesterday, the Parliament’s corporate communications unit issued a notice announcing that only 15 media organisations would be granted access into Parliament to cover the sitting.
The notice has caused an uproar among media agencies as no prior engagement was done and the mechanism used to select the 15 agencies was not explained.
The circular cited physical distancing and other health regulations to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus among its reasons to limited media agencies allowed into Parliament next month when Budget 2021 is scheduled to be tabled and debated.
The Perikatan Nasional (PN) government is scheduled to table next year’s budget on November 6.
The circular also comes after a politically eventful week that included a disclosure by Umno’s Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah on a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that revealed rifts within the PN alliance and Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s royal audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong after claiming to have the support of over 120 parliamentary legislators, enough to cause another change in government.