PETALING JAYA: The media should neither be obstructed nor harassed when they are carrying out their jobs – which is often about matters of public interest, say media groups.
This came after two journalists were harassed by security guards at the Pudu Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) as they were working on a public interest story on long queues of people applying for and renewing passports at Immigration Department counters and offices.
Peninsular Malaysia National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Farah Marshita Abd Patah urged relevant parties not to obstruct the media from doing their job.
"The journalist's right to report on issues related to the public should be protected and respected.
"It is time for the government to take serious action to protect journalists' rights. Journalists should be given the right to report on facts without any obstruction," she said on Saturday (May 14).
The Star NUJ president Low Boon Tat said journalists are subjected to harassment and a lack of respect for the profession – now more than ever.
"There have been many times where we have dealt with security officers who are rude to us," he said.
He added that the Pudu UTC is a public area and said: "How can a security officer have the power to stop journalists from doing our job?"
He said it was ironic that the government had issued media tags to journalists but were in turn disrespected at their offices, adding that journalists also faced similar problems with enforcement officers and bodyguards.
Media watchdog Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm) said a security officer manning the centre had also attempted to confiscate the handphone that the journalist was using to record the situation at the UTC.
Geramm said it is the responsibility of the media to report on the actual situation on the ground and should be given room to do so.
"This matter should have been solved in a professional manner instead of using intimidation as it will reflect badly on the organisation.
"Take Indonesia as an example, the media in Malaysia should have united and demanded protection to perform their duties without interference – what more roughed up.
"Under Indonesian law, obstructing the media from performing their duties is an offence," Geramm said in a statement posted on their Facebook on Saturday.
It was reported that the journalists were told that they are not allowed to take pictures or speak to those standing in line along the corridors without formal approval.
A one-minute-long video of the incident was uploaded on Twitter.
In the footage, a security guard can be heard yelling at a reporter, who is heard questioning why he is not allowed to report the situation at the Immigration Department in Pudu UTC.
"Cannot, do you understand? Get out! Cannot, this is the law, this is UTC, understand? Get out! I am in charge now," yells the officer who then starts counting, adding that he will call the police if the journalist refuses to leave.
Dang Wangi OCPD Asst Comm Noor Dellhan Yahaya said that the police were aware of the matter.
"The security guard lodged a report at 12.09pm. It is understood that the representatives from the news portal are in the midst of making their own," he said.