The issue of unequalled media coverage began after the Perikatan Nasional government took over last year.
Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun must explain why only selected media companies are allowed to cover Parliament proceedings physically next week, said press freedom activists.
“Azhar’s statement also made no reference as to how the selection for permitted media outlets was conducted, raising questions on the double standards and transparency of the process.
“He needs to justify the reasons for allowing access to selected media,” said the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Gerakan Media Merdeka (GERAMM) and the National Union of Journalists of Malaysia (NUJM) in a statement today.
With less than a week before Parliament begins on Monday, Azhar said only 16 media companies were allowed to physically cover proceedings next week.
Those dropped from the list includes media institutions such as the New Straits Times and Utusan Malaysia.
Azhar appears to have made the decision based on limiting on site coverage to two news organisations per language or type of media outlet, but there is no explanation as to why new outfits like Malaysia Now are given preference over more established news organisations such as Free Malaysia Today or the Malaysia Gazette.
The issue of unequalled media coverage began after the Perikatan Nasional government took over last year. Prior to that and Azhar’s appointment as Speaker last year, all media outlets were allowed to cover Parliament.
“Media organisations should be given the freedom to cover proceedings once the session resumes from September 13 to October 12,” the groups said today.
“Any move to restrict coverage from media organisations is detrimental to press freedom, especially at a time when the leadership are talking about institutional reforms and good governance.
“If it was at all necessary to limit the number of media organisations in Parliament, the existing parliament press organisations should decide how to take turns based on individual plans for coverage, rather than a unilateral decision made by authorities or organisers.
“We demand the restrictions be lifted immediately to protect the rights of the media and create an enabling and safe environment for the media to fulfil their role without discriminatory restrictions or interference.” – TMI