Bersih: Prosecutors must explain why Najib allowed to bar media from covering court proceedings over pardon

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Necessary for the proceedings to be conducted openly and transparently for public knowledge.

The Deputy Public Prosecutor’s Office should explain to the public its decision to approve former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s application to block the media from covering his court case yesterday, electoral watchdog Bersih said today.

In a statement, the civil society emphasised that proceedings of high-profile cases should be transparent to the public who has the right to know of their status.

“If it’s not, it may give rise to perceptions of double standards that can erode public confidence in the government and our justice institutions.

“Bersih once again emphasises that the principles of equal justice and transparency must always be upheld as the main principles to preserve the justice system and the rule of law in our country,” it said.

The electoral watchdog further reiterated that it is necessary for the proceedings to be conducted openly and transparently for public knowledge.

Echoing Bersih’s sentiments, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) said barring the press from covering the case effectively prevents the public from monitoring a corruption that rocked the nation.

“While we respect the powers of the judiciary and our judicial process, it cannot be seen to undermine democratic principles.

“Najib’s bid to seek house arrest for the remainder of his jail term is a matter of public interest and the basic tenets of democracy require the judicial process to be transparent and not shrouded in secrecy,” it said in a statement.

The NGO added that barring the media from covering the case would only further undermine the people’s trust in justice and democracy.

“This further sets a precedent where media cannot cover issues that involve political expediency, creating a system of opacity which leads to a trust deficit.

“His recent partial pardon has already set a precedent where the grounds and justification for the decision are yet to be disclosed and made transparent to the public.

“As such, we reiterate that the judicial system must be underscored by public interest and democratic principles and there should be no semblance of double standards present,” it said.

Bernama

Yesterday, the media were barred from proceedings of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s legal bid to compel the federal government and the Pardons Board to produce a purported “supplementary order” from the previous Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Earlier, Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah requested leave proceedings to be heard in chambers before High Court judge Datuk Amarjeet Singh Serjit Singh.

It was revealed later that this was due to a “critical witness” on the matter, which was named in court filings as Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.