The following is a 6 October 2006 media statement by Malaysia’s Centre for Independent Journalism and the Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI):
The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI) are worried by a police attempt to prevent coverage of an event organised by NGOs and an opposition political party.
Four NGOs and the party say that they were scheduled to meet with a public relations officer outside the Bukit Aman Police Headquarters at 11.30am (local time) on 6 October 2006 to express their concern over a death that occurred in police custody on 12 September 2006. On 5 October, the police public affairs department said that they have sent a fax to the newsrooms asking editors not to cover the event as it was taking place in a restricted area. A corporal from the department who did not want to be named said that the event had been cancelled, so the media were asked not to attend.
When contacted, some newsrooms said that they had not received notice of either the event or of the police decision to cancel it. Others were aware of the event, but not the police notice and had sent reporters.
CIJ and WAMI strongly assert the media’s right to cover events based on public interest concerns, rather than police directives. Apart from showing a worrying lack of regard for freedom of expression and media independence, the police action is counter-productive as it indicates that the police are unwilling for the public to hear the concerns of NGOs on allegations of police brutality. This could further public suspicion that the police are lacking in transparency, and strengthen existing demands for an independent police watchdog.
CIJ and WAMI call on the Inspector-General of Police to issue a public apology to the groups organising the event and to ensure that in future all departments within the police force respect the independence of the media and the public’s right to know.
For further information, contact Sonia Randhawa, Executive Director, Centre for Independent Journalism, tel : + 60 3 4023 0772, fax: +60 3 4023 0769.