Monday, March 14, 2016

Journalist are not terrorists, press group says

Published

Press associations in Malaysia have condemned the arrest of two Australian journalists who tried to ask Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak questions.

The Foreign Correspondents Club Malaysia (FCCM) said the premier's security detail could have just blocked the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) programme ‘Four Corners’ crew Linton Besser and Louie Eroglu, instead of resorting to arrests.

"Journalists have no track record of physically harming public officials; in fact, it is usually the other way around.

"Yet police are applying 'preventive measures' to reporters, as if they were terrorists," the FCCM said in a statement today.

It added that journalists have always cooperated when police needed to question them, negating the need for arrest.

It also said that if those in office fear harm to their reputation, they can use civil means such as right of reply or lawsuits.

Meanwhile, Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm) said the arrests were an assault on press freedom.

"We also believe that the incident could have been avoided if a public official, in this case the prime minister himself, would be more open to being questioned on matters of public importance," Geramm said in a statement yesterday.

It noted that since assuming office, Najib has hardly held any press conferences, and those he does hold are usually not open to all media.

Besser and Eroglu were detained on Saturday after trying to pose questions to Najib regarding the RM2.6 billion donation scandal.

Sarawak police said reporter Besser and camera operator Eroglu had “aggressively” pursued Najib, prompting the arrest.

They are investigated under the Penal Code for obstructing a public officer from conducting his duty.
ABC has denied allegations that its journalists had acted aggressively.

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