‘I understand how journalists feel’, says MP Nurul
PKR leader Nurul Izzah Anwar condemns Saturday's violence against journalists and voices her support for them.
PETALING JAYA: In light of the World Press Freedom Day, PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar voiced her support for Malaysian journalists and condemned the violence against them during the Bersih 3.0 rally.
The Lembah Pantai MP said while such cases happened in conflict-ridden regions, she never expected it to occur in Malaysia.
“[It was a] sad and dark day. A lot of challenges [were] faced by the media. If this was Zimbabwe or some African country, we could understand [the violence meted out to journalists].
“I can understand how journalists feel. They are there doing their job. You don’t expect them to be assaulted by the public protesters, but also the police,” she said.
Nurul was speaking at a fund-raising dinner sponsored by controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin last night.
She said that despite showing their media tags for all to see, journalists were still attacked, and in some cases, warded at the hospital for their injuries.
Last Saturday, several journalists were assaulted during their coverage of the Bersih 3.0 rally.
Al-Hijrah cameraman Mohd Azri Mohd Salleh was beaten up by protesters after he tried to help a policeman who crashed his car near the Sogo shopping centre.
The Sun reporter Mohd Radzi Abdul Razak was attacked by seven or eight policemen, who suddenly jumped him as he was sitting down for a smoke.
Malay Mail photographer Muhammad Arif Kartono was punched in the face after he tried to take pictures of protesters being arrested.
Several police officers kicked and stomped on him for a few minutes, smashing his camera in the process.
Many other pressmen from Nanyang Siang Pau, Guang Ming, Channel News Asia and Al-Jazeera either suffered assaults or were harrassed that day.
‘Encouraged by acts of defiance’
Nurul, however, seemed disappointed that despite the violence, few mainstream newspapers carried the names of the journalists attacked.
Commending The Sun as the only newspaper that did so, she said: “You would expect any paper to extend support for any [other] paper.”
“In detail, as of two days ago, when the [Bersih] issue was still very hot, nothing was in the NST (New Straits Times). It didn’t display people’s (the attacked reporters) names… I didn’t see anything in NST or the Star,” she said.
She however acknowledged the black-shirt protest by some news agencies yesterday, and the “Don’t beat up journalists” online petition.
Yesterday, scores of reporters and editors donned black to demand for press freedom and to protest against journalists attacked last Saturday.
“I saw the petition. It was very encouraging for trying to reach out to members of the fraternity.
“…I was [also] very encouraged by the courageous, and important act of defiance [of the protest]. The fact [that journalists] come together [as one], because the politicians can only do so much,” she said.
Meanwhile, Nurul said Malaysia’s low press freedom rankings (currently at 144th worldwide according to Freedom House) could be expected to drop further.
She however understood that things were not going to be easy in Malaysia.
“Of course, you want support from all sides of the media, but people have to understand that when we fight for press freedom (in Malaysia), there’s not [going to be] a level playing field.
“…Slowly but surely, we would get to a culture where politicians will be reminded of their weaknesses and failings,” she said.
Adding that no media agency was fully neutral, Nurul hoped for a situation where “all biases” (referring to newspapers) were allowed “to prevail.”
RPK backs Nurul
In another development, blogger Raja Petra announced his support for Nurul last night.
In a message to FMT, he said: “I would like to express my support for Nurul. The future belongs to the young. She and those of her generation should now take over the leadership of Malaysia.”
He also hoped to see the next general election being contested by “educated, intelligent and progressive” candidates under the age of 40.
Raja Petra added that Malaysia needed to move forward and discard its “divisive” racial politics in the process.