Media shut out from anti-crime hearing July 11, 2007Posted by elizabethwong in Current Affairs, Democracy, Human Rights, Malaysia, Politics.
I didn’t think much about it, when during a conversation with Boss, the topic of police was brought up. She wondered if the police would try to stop the public hearing, held in PJ tonight, as apparently the police were furious with the Johor public hearing by the Parliament Caucus on Human Rights and Good Governance last Sunday.
From what I heard, the residents there really taruh our boys in blue.
So imagine how shocked I was when I arrived at the MBPJ Civil Hall and met some 25 or so, very indignant and bewildered journalists, photographers and TV crew.
“How can they stop us ….”
“They won’t let us in …”
“We’re suppose to film this …”
Boss wasn’t even informed about this, and before I could find out more, the hearing began. Some of the photographers rushed to the front and snapped hurriedly. Lucky for them too, as it was announced that reporters were barred and only the Parliament photographer was allowed to take photos. A reporter was so upset that he mass-sent his protest SMS.
The media here have enough constraints, but to stop them from reporting on a public hearing on a matter, which is not only of public interest but of utmost urgency, is like slapping them in public for no good reason.
‘Closed-Public Meeting’. An oxymoron. One may as well get Zam and co to write all the news for them.
After the 3 hour session was over (it went an hour overtime), one of the MPs told us that after Johor, the top brass went to the highest echelons of power and told them to shut the hearings down.
The rise in crime isn’t imaginery. There is a serious breakdown in law and order. It was only yesterday when one of Suaram’s staff members’ car was stolen, right outside the Gasing Indah office in broad daylight. During the hearing, a man nearly broke down in tears while he was speaking. A woman was near shivering as she recounted her experience of being burgled.
When thespian, Anne James spoke and asked for a show of hands, of the number of people present had had an act of crime committed against us, more than half the hall put theirs up (mine included).
When she asked how many of those crimes have been solved, none went up.
What are the police afraid of, really? Bad PR? Finding out why they’re so bad in their jobs? So what? Almost everyone there had good friendly suggestions – my favourite being “Cops-on-wheels” (bicycles!). If the police cared to even listen, they would realise most people don’t see them as the enemy. They’re just plain tired and frustrated, and want to help make things right.
Yes, we know you’re under-equipped, under-skilled, underpaid, under-resourced, wrongly deployed (eg. More intelligence and Special Branch officers than Crime Division?). As a few people said tonight – The government should stop those mega-projects and stop buying Sukhois – reallocate the budget for more important and useful things, like public safety.
But if the police and the government want to turn a deaf ear and feel comfortable or attempt to put a lid on this, not only will it boil over, it will explode in time and soon enough, people will start taking the law into their hands, applying for gun licenses etc. And yes, they will rally the votes against you.
I made notes of those 40-plus testimonies and suggestions, and will post them tomorrow. Let’s hope the media will ignore the ‘order’ not to report, and write with even more vigour. People’s safety and lives are without doubt far more important than currying favour from the police or the government.
(Malaysiakini reported on the ‘shut out’, minutes after the hearing began at eight-thirty)
(Malaysiakini.com, 11 July) The media were tonight barred from covering the public hearing on crime held by the Parliamentary Human Rights Caucus in Petaling Jaya’s Civic Hall.
When the hearing kicked off at 8.30pm with about 200 participants in attendance, Kelana Jaya MP Loh Seng Kok went up the podium of Auditorium MBPJ to request all journalists to leave the hall.
He said that the inquiry was a closed-door affair. Notices announcing that the public hearing was off limits to the media were also posted at the entrance of the hall. No reasons were given.
The public hearing was attended by chairperson of the caucus and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz, Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
It is also believed that Nazri had earlier in the day sent a note to media organisations (not to malaysiakini) regarding the closed-door hearing, requesting them not to cover the event.
Some parties uncomfortable
“The meeting has to be closed-door so that some parties will not be uncomfortable due to media reports,” Nazri told the public hearing.
The ban on media also affects a public hearing slated to be held in Penang this Sunday.
The first hearing was held in Johor last Sunday where the media was allowed to cover.
It was reported to be a heated meeting.
Some 500 frustrated Johor residents lambasted the government for not taking any serious actions in combatting the rising crime levels there.