Pixman’s assault: what really happened?
What actually happened at Nirvana funeral parlour in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, when a punch was thrown at a press photographer? Three journalist groups have come out in support of the NST photographer, with the press photographers’ association demanding vengeance. But in standing up for their fellow journalist they ignored a basic factor: the truth, and a full story.
The press photographers’ association called for swift police action against the family member of an MH17 passenger who punched the photographer; an activist group of mainly online journalists, centred on Malaysiakini, condemned the attack and asked the public to show appreciation of the difficulties faced by journalists on the job; the National Union of Journalists offered legal aid to the NST photographer. Even the inspector-general of police chimed in, urging the public to show tolerance for the press on duty.
Photos of the NST photographer’s bloodied face were posted at the Friends of Barisan Nasional page on Facebook.
But why was the press at Nirvana? Had they been invited? Did they ignore family requests for privacy? Did the press ignore a government request to respect the families’ privacy? Why did the family member suddenly attack a photographer? Why this one out of so many press people at the funeral? Why was there trouble in Nirvana?
Yesterday evening the family member concerned was reported in the Star to have said that the family had requested several times that the press not take photos.
Several reporters discussing the matter on Facebook in the afternoon had been told that family members had been heard calling out “No Press, No Photographs”. One reporter said the family had tried to keep the door closed to the press, but everyone had barged in anyway. The Star reported the family as saying they had requested privacy, but were surprised that MAS and the Nirvana funeral parlour had released funeral details to the press, giving the press the impression they were invited.
There are conflicting accounts of whether the photographer was punched once, or twice; two photographers were said to have been involved; one reporter said the NST photographer had been seen smiling and posing with his damaged camera after being attacked; while he was doing so the family member came at him again, and was captured on video.
Something doesn’t add up.
Violence against the press must surely be condemned. Violence against journalists doing their duty cannot be condoned. But did the press invite trouble with their arrogance and insensitivity yesterday?
Nagging questions remain:
- was the occasion a private one?
- did the press ignore the family’s privacy and barge in unasked?
- were the mass of photographers and reporters, with their cameras, lights and flashguns, being insensitive, intrusive and uncaring about private grief?
- do editors tell their staff to get the story, no matter what, and keep one eye closed?
- did the media wilfully ignore a government request on Monday to respect the families’ privacy?
- do editors and media houses uphold ethical values on the job, or ignore them as being inconvenient and getting in the way of the story?
- do Malaysian mainstream media rely on the power of the pack to get away with bullying the public, knowing they can get backing from the police and other authorities?
The three journalists’ groups instinctively fell back into self-defence mode yesterday, claiming the defence of victimhood.
On Facebook, photographers were trying to whip up sympathy for the photographer, but also aggressively condemning the family for arrogance. Vengeance was being sought. News reports on the incident (including Malaysiakini’s) mostly sided the photographers and did not explain how the attack came about.
It explains why the general public are wary of the press: The press always has the final word, so it seems.
Yesterday, that seemed to be the case.
Pack self-preservation and mutual protection was on display, and the public be damned.