Monday, October 7, 2013

NUJ tells Zahid to shed 'uncivilised' attitude

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has urged Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to shed his "uncivilised attitude" towards journalists who asks him probing questions.

In an email interview with Malaysiakini, NUJ president Chin Sung Chew said Ahmad Zahid's treatment towards Malaysiakini journalist Lawrence Yong on Friday was wrong because the media has the right to highlight public interest issues.

He said Zahid, as a public figure, has a duty to field these questions rationally.

"Clearly, this behaviour is inappropriate of a rational home minister in public, especially in a press conference," he said.

Chin said if the media had misconstrued what he said, he can explain himself to third parties or even take legal action.

"There is no need for such uncivilised attitude to berate the media, especially frontline journalists," he said.

PM must act

Chin also called on Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to address the issue of media-unfriendly ministers in his cabinet in order to promote press freedom.

Zahid, to a question regarding missing police weapons and equipment, had repeatedly warned Malaysiakini not to spin his words.

He also declined to entertain follow-up questions from the reporter while answering questions from other reporters and then confronted the Malaysiakini journalist after the press conference.

In a separate incident reported in Oriental Daily today, Zahid had supposed uttered "sensitive remarks" at a closed door function, and then warning reporters not to write about it upon realising their presence.

He threatened to close down their publications if they do not heed his warning. Newspaper permits are under the purview of the Home Minister under the Printing Presses and Publications Act.


Concurring with Chin is Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) executive officer Masjaliza Hamzah, who reminded Zahid that he must answer questions about public funds.

"Zahid Hamidi as Home Minister and someone who is responsible for national security and public order should be addressing the question rather be defensive and aggressive.

"He is a minister; it is press conference. It is a legitimate platform for journalists to ask questions and demand an answer," she toldMalaysiakini today when contacted.

She also said that Zahid should not be making threats to shut down newspapers.

"Surely there must be accountability and due process. It is very unbecoming for a minister to stoop so low to make threats to close down a newspaper," she said.

~ Malaysiakini

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