KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 — The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) today urged the government to allow more press coverage of the upcoming third term of the 14th Parliament sitting and tabling of Budget 2021, slated to begin on November 6.
This follows an October 16 statement from Parliament’s corporate communications unit announcing that only 15 media organisations have been granted access to cover the sitting.
“NUJM maintains its stand that the selection should be reassessed to enable more media agencies, especially local online portals, to provide coverage.
“Adhering to the principles of a free press and government transparency, local media portals should be given equal voice and rights over coverage, especially on issues of national interest,” said NUJ president Farah Marshita Abdul Patah in a statement today.
Farah stressed that media coverage should not be determined by the government or any political parties and that press freedom should not be obstructed.
“NUJM would like to emphasise that it is time for media agencies not to be seen as antagonists by the government because such action will make the public feel that the media is still being stifled and controlled by the government and political parties.
“The selection of media for official event coverage should be balanced and fair so that no one feels sidelined while carrying out their duties or that freedom of the press is obstructed,” he said.
Farah also voiced her confidence in media personnel complying with the standard operating procedure in Parliament amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
NUJM added that it is confident that if a large and well-organised space were provided for media personnel, the SOPs on safety and physical distancing would be followed at all times.
“Media workers are also frontline workers and our job is to report everything that happens in the country, #kitajagakerajaan because the media and the government together are committed and inseparable,” she said.
On October 16, Parliament issued a notice announcing that only 15 selected media outlets would be granted access to Parliament to cover the upcoming Dewan Rakyat meeting from November 2 to December 23. Budget 2021 is expected to be tabled on November 6.
To explain why only 15 news organisations were allowed in, the notice cited the need to curb the spread of Covid-19 and to comply with standard operating procedures (SOPs) for such purposes and to ensure the Dewan Rakyat meeting can be carried out safely.
The notice also said that media personnel from the 15 selected media outlets have to undergo Covid-19 tests on October 30 and test negative before allowed entry into the Dewan Rakyat.
The notice did not explain the mechanism used to select the 15 agencies.