Several media advocacy groups and politicians have rebuked two PAS leaders, including a Cabinet minister, for being hostile towards an FMT reporter who was just doing her job.
National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Farah Marshita Abdul Patah said the union was unhappy with the actions of some leaders and politicians, like the duo, who “bullied reporters who were carrying out their duties”.
“It must be remembered that the job of a reporter, other than asking questions to channel information to the public, is to play a check and balance role in the administration of the country, state or politics,” she said in a statement.
FMT had reported that two PAS leaders, one a minister and the other a deputy minister, became confrontational when an FMT reporter asked questions related to an action of the PAS-led Kedah government which effectively bans gaming outlets in that state.
PAS vice-president Idris Ahmad, a senator who is religious affairs minister, pointedly asked Minderjeet Kaur if she could tolerate her husband being a gambler, while Awang Hashim, who is deputy human resources minister and MP for Pendang, insisted that she ask the question in Bahasa Malaysia.
Farah said a reporter’s questions must be received with an open mind.
“If you fail to answer the question that is put forth by the reporter, it means that the step taken or its implementation was not well thought out.
“Don’t blame the person asking the questions if you do not have an answer for them. Don’t divert from answering the questions by attacking the shortcomings of others,” she said.
She also warned against using one’s power to bully other people, especially women.
Meanwhile, Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) also expressed its disappointment over the reactions of the two PAS leaders to Minderjeet’s questions.
“Not only did they not answer her questions, the Free Malaysia Today portal reported that the reporter covering PN’s (Perikatan Nasional) manifesto launch in Shah Alam was instead asked if she would not mind if her husband was a gambler,” it said in a statement.
Geramm said the actions of both these leaders of an Islamic party, especially as they were part of the government, were unacceptable.
It said every reporter had a responsibility and the right to ask about any issue and that the other party also had a right to not make any comment.
Pointing out that Awang had asked if the reporter was a Malaysian just because she had asked her questions in English, Geramm said: “There is no excuse to attack the reporter personally just because they are not ready to answer.
“The response clearly shows their attitude of not respecting the reporter’s profession and possibly their perception that women are easily bullied,” it said.
Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah urged for action to be taken against the two PAS leaders, suggesting a suspension or docking of their wages.
“There needs to be stern action against the duo to set a precedent. Is this the quality of people Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is keeping in his Cabinet? Shameful,” she said in a statement.
She urged both PAS leaders to also issue a public apology to the reporter and “pledge not to repeat these crude offences”.
She urged the communications and multimedia ministry to educate ministers and deputy ministers on media decorum to prevent instances like this from repeating.
“Since communications minister Annuar Musa is a proponent of the media fraternity, he should make it his legacy to realise the long-planned media council in order for the rights of journalists to be protected,” she said.
PKR’s former Balik Pulau MP Yusmadi Yusoff also spoke up about the issue on his Facebook page, urging the duo to apologise to the reporter.
He said the PAS leaders should have taken the opportunity to give an explanation and not intimidate the reporter who was just doing her job.
“The role of the media in a democratic system is important and it’s not too much for me to say that it is even more important in a semi-authoritarian country like Malaysia,” he said. – FMT