KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — Former education minister Maszlee Malik today questioned Dewan Rakyat over its seemingly selective approach in allowing media members access to cover the upcoming Parliament sitting next month.
Taking on Twitter, the Simpang Renggam MP described the move as an assault on democracy.
“Initially, we have a PM who hides himself from the media.
“Then it is followed by the ministers who give a picture that most of the ministries are without ministers.
“Now, even the beacon of democracy is being deprived from certain media. No democracy without press freedom!” Mazslee tweeted.
His response comes after a sudden notice from the Parliament’s corporate communications unit yesterday, announcing that only 15 media organisations would be granted access into Parliament, to cover the sitting.
The notice caught the media fraternity members off guard as no prior engagement was done and the mechanism used to select the said 15 organisations was not made clear.
The notice merely stated that the limitation imposed was necessary, in keeping with the government’s efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
It also instructed media members assigned to cover the sitting, to have the Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test done on October 30, and hand over the result slip to Parliament officers stationed at entry gate 7.
Each agency is allowed to only assign one journalist and/or one videographer or photographer, while government news organisations; RTM and Bernama are allowed to send more personnel.
Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil yesterday called out Parliament officials for limiting the number of news agencies in the coming Dewan Rakyat sitting, claiming it was a ploy to restrict media freedom.
He noted that many online news companies and international wires were missing from the list.
“I’m disappointed that the Parliament officials are preventing media agencies, in particular, online media agencies from covering the tabling of the Budget 2021 Bill.
“This is actually the most important moment and more media agencies should be allowed to be present to cover the Bill being tabled and debates on how the Ringgit is managed by the government to address the current Covid-19 outbreak in the country,” he said in a statement.
The Dewan Rakyat will reconvene from November 2 to December 15. The Perikatan Nasional (PN) government is scheduled to table next year’s budget on November 6.
The circular also comes after a politically eventful week that included a disclosure by Umno’s Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah on a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that revealed rifts within the PN alliance and Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s royal audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong after claiming to have the support of over 120 parliamentary legislators, enough to cause another change in government.
Expressing scepticism over the reasons given, Fahmi said that Parliament officials could do more to accommodate the large number of journalists covering Budget and other debates while keeping to health regulations if they had the will to do so.