Journalists petition for apology, compensation and fair inquiry
Kuala Lumpur, 12 May 2012
A protest petition by journalists demanding a public apology, a fair inquiry and compensation for the violent assaults against reporters and photographers covering the Bersih 3.0 rally is expected to be delivered to the Government on Monday.
The petition, addressed to the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Inspector-General of Police, says “the journalistic community is shocked and deeply saddened by the violent and targetted assault on members of the community”.
It expresses outrage at the unprecedented injuries and distress caused to journalists on duty, the loss of images erased from data storage cards, and the confiscation or damage to equipment.
More than a dozen reporters and photographers have reported being assaulted by police, manhandled or intimidated, with cameras confiscated or damaged and data storage cards erased.
The petition also points out the contradiction between the assaults and the government’s moves towards greater press freedom.
“An attack on journalists is an attack on freedom of the press,” the petition says. “There can be no freedom of the press without the freedom to report fully, impartially, and safely.”
The petition, endorsed by journalists on May 3, makes four demands of the Government:
- make a full public apology to all journalists for injuries and distress caused while carrying out their duties, provide full restitution of equipment damaged or lost, and make adequate compensation;
- conduct an immediate, independent and impartial inquiry into the events of April 28, 2012, and bring to justice all those responsible for violence against journalists;
- take all measures to ensure the safety of journalists covering public events; and
- ensure that journalists are not hampered by the authorities or subjected to interference or intimidation aimed at curtailing their ability to provide the Malaysian people with full and fair reports of current events.
The petition has been supported by more than 4,000 people. Of these, more than 300 are members of the journalistic community; 1,472 are journalists represented by the National Union of Journalists Peninsular Malaysia, which endorsed the petition; and more than 2,400 members of the public.
Signatures for the petition were obtained both online and in person at several newsrooms, and at a World Press Freedom Day gathering at the National Press Club in Kuala Lumpur on May 3, attended by more than 80 journalists and supporters.
The gathering endorsed the petition and also adopted a resolution to form a professional association, the Institute of Journalists Malaysia (Pertubuhan Wartawan Malaysia) to raise standards of professionalism, promote free and fair journalism, and uphold freedom of the press.
The petition was organised two days after the Bersih rally, at the same time as a joint statement by editors and journalists condemning the acts of intimidation and violence seen at the rally.
A copy of the statement was included in the petition.