Malaysia: Court denies access to journalists

The magistrate’s court in Putrajaya banned journalists from covering an open court proceeding against the eldest daughter of UMNO party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Nurulhidayah Ahmad Zahid and her husband Saiful Nizam Mohd Yusoff on May 5. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has backed its affiliate the National Union of Journalists Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM) in expressing regret regarding the banning and demand the authorities respect the rights of journalists.

Credit: IFJ

Journalists were on standby since early morning on Tuesday to cover the case. However, at least five reporters were told to leave without clear explanation. The court still allowed some members of the public to remain in court.

Nurulhidayah and her husband were fined RM800 each or US$ 185 by the magistrate's court for violating the government's movement control order (MCO) last month. They were charged with travelling from Kajang, a town located around 20 km southeast of Kuala Lumpurto the Environment Department in Putrajaya at 9am on April 20.

Malaysia announced the MCO on March 18 in order to contain the spread of Covid-19. The government says it does not interfere in the judiciary, amid questions about the disparity in punishments for those violating the MCO.

NUJM in its statement said it regrets such action, especially for a case that was set for an open court hearing where public has the right to attend the proceedings. The incident is an attempt to prevent journalists the freedom to gather information.

“As long as the journalists do not violate court rules, the directive can be deemed as an obstruction to the journalist's duty in obtaining news. Such directive would showcase Malaysia as not practising media freedom since the court was the symbol of justice in the country,” NUJM added.

IFJ said: “Journalists should have the unimpeded right to access the open court and cover a case of public interest. IFJ is disappointed  with the incident and calls on authorities to ensure journalists can work freely and safely to serve the public by providing high quality, accurate information.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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