At the Lembah Pantai division meeting, non-Malay journalists were asked to leave the meeting before the officiation ceremony began. The meeting was held at the Persatuan Alumni University Malaysia clubhouse in Petaling Jaya. The excuse given to the journalists was that UMNO is a Malay party and it is a ‘Malay meeting’ so there only Malays are allowed to cover the main speech, which was delivered by the vice president of UMNO Ismail Sabri Yaakob. According to a Malaysiakini report, Ismail explained that the eviction of the non-Malay journalists was due to a technical error and ‘unintentional’.
UMNO is Malaysia’s largest Malay-based political party and has 190 divisions. In the lead up the UMNO national assembly this year, each division will hold a general meeting. Each division meeting starts with a ceremony by central party leaders, and generally journalists are allowed to cover their speeches, which are followed by a closed-door meeting.
The IFJ said: “The decision to evict non-Malay journalists from covering the meeting is a form of discrimination, which the IFJ does not tolerate. The UMNO cannot select which journalists can and can’t cover their meetings on the basis of race. We urge the UMNO leadership to investigate the matter and provide training and education for all UMNO officials to ensure incidents like this do not occur in the future.”