Malaysia's journalist groups want Parliament coverage restrictions lifted

PETALING JAYA: Journalist organisations have decried the recent restrictions on the number of journalists allowed to cover Parliament proceedings.

Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm), Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IoJ), the National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJM), Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia (CIJ), the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia (FCCM) and the Malaysian Press Photographers Association (MPPA), in a joint statement on Friday, raised their concerns over the ruling that from Nov 16 news agencies would only be allowed to assign three journalists each to cover Parliamentary proceedings.

"The decision was made supposedly due to critical working space constraints as a result of ongoing renovation works, scheduled for completion only in 2018.

"The decision, however, could be construed as an attempt to limit coverage of Parliamentary proceedings and stifle freedom of the press," said the groups.

They added their concern that if the regulation were not applied to some media organisations, it could be speculated that Parliament "is not facilitating fair and free access to all media, a key cornerstone in the democratic process".

"Given the fact that renovation works will be ongoing for the next few years, the restriction would make it unfeasible for the media agencies to effectively carry out their primary duties of informing the public," they said.

The groups jointly urged Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, who is in charge of parliamentary affairs, and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia to lift the restriction to facilitate media coverage of parliamentary proceedings.