Malaysia: Journalists barred from covering first sitting since change in government

Malaysia’s lower house of parliament scheduled to sit for the first time since the change in government will only be accessible to journalists from government media organisations on May 18. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM) urge the government to give journalists access to parliament while maintaining safety standards.

A member of the Hazardous Material Unit Team (HAZMAT) sprays disinfectant near a residential area in Kuala Lumpur on March 31, 2020. Credit: Mohd Rasfan/AFP

Journalists from non-government media organisations will be barred from attending the first sitting day of the lower house since the political crisis in February and March that led to a change in government. In addition to the government plans to introduce Covid-19 related bills and motions, the opposition will attempt to table a no-confidence motion against prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, despite suggestions that agenda items of the current government will be prioritised, meaning the no-confidence motion will not be heard.

Lower house speaker Mohamad Ariff Mohd Yusof confirmed only Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) and Malaysian National News Agency (BERNAMA), both government owned news outlets will receive access to the parliamentary building. Yusof cited ‘Covid-19’ as the reason for the restriction, without elaborating. The sitting will be broadcasted live online.

NUJM said: “Covid-19 prevention measures could be put in place without curtailing media access. NUJM understands and appreciates the government's effort of ensuring safety during Covid-19 but it can be done in a way where the media is given access while adhering to safety standards at the same time.”

IFJ said: "By creating an information divide between government and non-government media, politicians cannot be held accountable by the public and democracy will crumble. The IFJ call on the government to consult media organisations to inform best practices that will ensure journalists are given safe access to parliamentary sittings.”

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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