PN govt must stop restricting right to information and freedom of press

I am deeply disappointed with Parliament’s decision to restrict the media’s coverage of the upcoming parliamentary sessions from November 2 to December 23 to merely 15 media agencies.

In the announcement issued by Parliament’s corporate communications unit, many media agencies will be excluded from covering the upcoming sitting, particularly those that operate online exclusively such as Malaysiakini, Malay Mail, FMT and so on. The Covid-19 pandemic is purportedly stated by the Parliament administrators as the main reason behind the decision.

Being elected by the rakyat under the spirit of “one person, one vote”, lawmakers are given the mandate to debate about policies, enact laws and oversee government affairs in Parliament.

All lawmakers must therefore be constantly checked and held accountable to ensure that they truly represent the electorates who give them the mandate.

As such, the media that is hailed as the fourth pillar of democracy is crucial in ensuring that the rakyat’s right to know and right to information, including anything that transpire in parliamentary sittings, can be exercised.

Although Malaysia is combatting the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, the government must not use this as an excuse to restrict the rakyat’s right to know and suppress freedom of the press.

Instead, in the midst of crisis, all media must be allowed to cover the upcoming parliamentary sitting so that the rakyat can be fully aware of the bills, policies and measures debated and passed in Parliament to fight against the pandemic and to save the economy from recession.

If the responsible parties are sincere about combatting Covid-19 pandemic, what they should do is to introduce a list of SOPs for the media agencies to strictly follow, including mask-wearing and physical distancing measures.

If the PN government is sincere about combatting the Covid-19 pandemic, it should immediately stop practising double standards by, for instance, pressing charges against the Primary Industries Minister Khairuddin who had clearly violated the SOPs.

Also, any policy or measure to fight against the pandemic should be planned and implemented in an efficient and transparent manner. Dismantling the check and balance system in which the media plays a huge part, on the other hand, should never appear on the government’s list.

I once again call upon the Parliament administrators and the government to withdraw the decision and allow all media agencies to cover the upcoming parliamentary sitting. The rakyat’s right to information and the freedom of the press must not be sacrificed, but should instead be protected and strengthened in these turbulent times.

Chiong Yoke Kong
Media statement by Chiong Yoke Kong in Cameron Highlands on Saturday, 17th October 2020