When will Malaysia begin to protect journalists?
More than a dozen journalists were attacked by police in April 2012 while on duty covering the Bersih rally. Most were photographers. The attackers, as reported by the journalists themselves, were mostly young policemen whose name tags had been removed.One of those attacked, Radzi Razak, then of the Sun and now with Malaysiakini, became a poster boy as part of an international campaign for the protection of journalists.
No one in the police force has ever been charged or punished for physically attacking journalists, removing their camera storage cards and in a couple of cases, damaging photographic equipment.
No one in the police or the government has taken responsibility for a shameful act that was criticised by the Human Rights Commission.
This year, journalist Susan Loone of Malaysiakini was arrested by the police under the Sedition Act for merely reporting on what a politician said.
Nothing in what Susan Loone wrote can even remotely be regarded as “seditious”, taking the word to mean rousing the people to rise up and topple authority, or as “hate” speech.
The fact is plainly that that the police preferred to take exception to a politician’s negative remark about the police which was reported.
Since when did making criticism of the police force become a crime?
This year, another journalist, a reporter with the Sun, became the subject of public abuse and insults by the Home Minister, Ahmad Zahidi Hamid, because the reporter had allegedly misquoted the minister.
So a reporter made a mistake. Does that justify a Minister behaving like a thug and hurling public insults and public abuse at a journalist?
Ahmad Zahidi has in the past routinely abused Malaysiakini in particular and now has chosen to use his high position to subject a lowly reporter to public abuse — yet at the same time tried to make a big deal about press ethics.Does he even know the meaning of the word? Or of other words, like “honour” and “integrity” and “public service”?
Did the sub-contracted louts of Umno Penang take their cues from the thuggish and bullying behaviour of the home minister when they attacked citizens at Speakers’ Corner recently?
So what standard of ethics and public service allows a Minister to behave like a common lout or a cheap nightclub bouncer? And worse, by the fact that he holds high position, thus encourage the police force (which is under the purview of his ministry), and KDN civil servants who control the media, and Umno division heads to also behave like thugs?
Susan Loone committed no crime in doing her job as a professional journalist. Neither did the Sun reporter.
The crime lies not in what was reported.
The crime is not that a journalist reported a negative remark or made a mistake.
The crime is a government and a police force that believes it is above the law.
The crime lies in a police force that has shown, by its actions, that it prefers to protect politicians of the right colour, religion or party — and protect themselves — rather than protect the common citizen, or the right of journalists to keep the citizen informed.
The crime is a police force and a political establishment that wants the citizen and the journalist to STFU. Shut up! is what Umno says. And “Shut up!” is what the police force says.
That is a crime against the citizen by any measure.
Furthermore, society loses confidence in its own judiciary system which is meant to protect everyone from attacks on their rights. Perpetrators of crimes against journalists are thus emboldened when they realize they can attack their targets without ever facing justice.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/68/163 at its 68th session in 2013 which proclaimed 2 November as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ (IDEI).
The Resolution urged Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity. The date was chosen in commemoration of the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013.
This short video is joint produced by The Public Liberties and Human Rights department at Aljazeera, in co-operation with several international organizations who promote press freedom to help raise awareness of the danger of impunity.