Journalists and media workers were blocked from entering the MBSA public hearing, with officers saying the event was invitation only and no invitations were extended to the media. The meeting was held at Wisma MBSA banquet hall in Shah Alam on April 8 to discuss the council’s proposal to convert the Shah Alam Community Forest into commercial real estate and a cemetery. Only residents and other members of the public who lodged formal objections to the draft plan were allowed in.
In an attempt to assist journalists, some residents offered to enter the session and act as ‘representatives’. However, officers imposed the condition that the session “must not be reported and journalists must surrender their recording devices”.
According to the Centre for Independent Journalism, the decision by the council contravenes the Freedom of Information (State of Selangor) Enactment 2011’ meant to “provide to every individual a reasonable right of access to information made by every department of the State Government and to promote transparency and accountability”.
MBSA councillor, Pappa Raidu Veraman, said another session would be held where journalists can lodge their “objections”, insisting planning officers would hold further hearings. However, journalists made it clear they were there to cover the hearing, not participate in it.
The IFJ said: “This is a severe infringement on press freedom. The recent crackdown on journalists across Malaysia, from the Malaysiakini verdict to the emergency proclamation criminalising “fake news”, is crushing the capacity of journalists to ensure transparency and accountability in a democratic society.