17 November, 2007

Pixman from Chinese daily assaulted during press conference

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is concerned about the use
of violence to prevent journalists from doing the work. Yesterday, a
photographer from the Chinese daily, Guangming Daily, Kok Chun Seng
alleged he was assaulted by members of the Malay political party,
UMNO, while covering a press conference organised by an opposition
Member of Parliament at his constituency in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

According to a report in the New Straits Times (17 November 2007),
Koh, 27 claimed he was attacked for taking pictures of two UMNO
members who had an argument with the Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai (from the
Democratic Action Party) during a press conference held at a
multipurpose hall in Kuala Lumpur on the alleged abuse of funds by
UMNO. Tan had said that UMNO had misused the funds by building party
service centres instead of a hall for the public. Several UMNO members
confronted Tan, accusing him of trespassing on "private property".
They then prevented Kok from taking photo of the incident, one man
punched him on his ear and another from the group punched him again
when he tried to calm the situation. According to a Malaysiakini.com
news article, Kok lodged a police report and he will submit photos of
the attack later.

We are deeply concerned about the physical risks that journalists are
coming under in recent times in discharging their duties. Just last
week, two journalists from a local Tamil daily, Malaysian Nanban, have
come under physical and verbal threats, allegedly over articles they
have written. There are also anecdotes of individual journalists who
receive verbal indirect threats for their coverage on specific topics
like illegal logging. However, few journalists make these attacks
public as they perceive them as part and parcel of their job hazards.
There are few avenues available for journalists to seek recourse
except by lodging police reports, and fewer still result in the cases
resolved or action taken.

CIJ condemns the use of violence against journalists by any party, be
it the state or non-state actors including political party members and
individuals. Instead, they should respect the role of the media in
reporting the truth in public interest. The media, as a watchdog of
those in power, must be allowed to operate in a safe environment. We
hope the police will investigate these cases thoroughly and bring to
justice those who bring about harm to journalists.

CIJ calls for:

1.Immediate and thorough investigations by the police into all
threats, attacks, intimidation and harassment of journalists;
2.Greater protection for journalists from all media background so that
they can carry out their tasks without the risks of harm;
3. Coordinated initiatives especially by the media organisations and
the National Union of Journalists to ensure protection of staff and
members; and
4. Better awareness of and respect for the media's role in reporting
the truth for public interest.

Gayathry Venkiteswaran
Executive Director
Centre for Independent Journalism, CIJ
No 27C, Jalan Sarikei, Off Jalan Pahang, 53000 Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA.
Tel: +603-40230772 / +603-40249840 / +6016-3123478
Fax: +603-40230769
URL: www.ciijmalaysia.org

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