The Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat has announced a ban on non-MPs from using the press conference facilities provided in an area of the members’ lobby at Parliament House. He said Parliament had been lax about the use of the facilities in the past but the privilege had been abused.
The Speaker, Pandikar Amin Mulia, said he had been considering the matter for some time, but he added that his decision to act had nothing to do with a petition signed by 76 journalists on Wednesday asking for restrictions on the use of the press conference area.
The petition was started by a reporter with Agenda Daily, a pro-Umno web site and blog, and co-signed by reporters and crew of 30 media houses.
Journalists of Malaysiakini said they did not support the petition.
According to Bernama, Pandikar said: “Outsiders who entered the Parliament building are prohibited from using the facility to make any statement or hold press conferences even if they were accompanied by Independent Members of Parliament, (BN) MPs as well as those MPs from the Opposition.”
The ban does not restrict members of the public from meeting their MPs at the lobby; it merely prevents them from using press conference facilities at the members’ lobby, which are provided by Parliament for use by MPs.
In response to journalists who pointed out to the Speaker that many people had come to Parliament as a last resort to bring their issues to public attention, Pandikar said: “If you the members of media see someone familiar who is not an MP and have issues that you want to raise, then go ahead and ask.”
He said press conferences could be held anywhere, not only at Parliament and he suggested that “people have press conferences here because they know they will get more coverage”.
More than 100 reporters have credentials to cover Parliament; the number present varies from day to day. They cover proceedings in the Dewan Rakyat and Senate, meet politicians for interviews or for information, and also cover official business by government ministers.
The fact that reporters from every media organisation are in one place through the day — sitting ducks, as it were, or a captive audience — has been a tempting proposition, as well as the availability of press conference facilities, and the image of Parliament itself.
The current rule has been that an MP must be present when the press conference is held; most often the press conference is conducted by the interested parties and the MP’s presence has been only to justify their presence.
Pandikar pointed out that other houses of Parliament had similar rules restricting access to the premises. (At Westminster, the British parliament, only accredited journalists are allowed to mingle with MPs at the lobby, with the rest restricted to the press gallery.)
The Houses of Parliament, however, are closed off from the general public, who are allowed only at the Visitors’ Gallery to listen to debates, or at the members’ lobby (usually by appointment) to meet their MP.
The media conference area is in one corner of the members’ lobby, and was provided by Parliament specifically for use by MPs to meet the press. The lobby is where constituents and members of the public can meet MPs, usually by appointment.
With the resurgence of activism by MPs, particularly by members of opposition parties since 2008, the press conference area has often been used by MPs and their supporters to bring citizens’ issues to the attention of the media.
Some members of the press said this was a distraction from their work of covering Parliament.
July: Queensland Speaker bans TV cameras from parliament
Independent television camera operators were banned from the floor of the Queensland Parliament for several weeks in July to August after news bulletins broadcast footage of a protest over civil unions. The Speaker issued a ruling that suspends television camera access for nine parliamentary sittings. The temporary ban has been blamed on a breach of media access policy, which states that events in the galleries are not part of the official proceedings. The policy states that cameras should only focus on whichever MP has “the call” to speak. When there are disturbances in the gallery, the incident is not meant to be shown. Brisbane Times
October: Banned again for showing MP’s files
Oct 24: Television camera crews have again been suspended, accused of breaking rules that apply to the media. Speaker Fiona Simpson said a pool camera had filmed papers on opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk’s desk during her budget reply speech on Sept. 13. The computer screens of shadow treasurer Curtis Pitt and opposition health spokeswoman Jo-Ann Miller were also filmed.
Ms Simpson said the matter possibly breached parliamentary privilege and media access conditions, and the networks might be in contempt of parliament. The breach occurred just two sitting days after news cameras had been readmitted.
» Qld parliament bans TV crews again – The West Australian