Movement curbs on media lifted in Malaysian parliament

June 25th, 2008 - 1:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, June 25 (IANS) Security barriers were lifted in the Malaysian parliament Wednesday and the media was free to move around and enter the lobby after two days of protests. Reporters, photographers and video crew called off their boycott and resumed their normal duties, The Star Online said.

The announcement came from a ruling Barisan Nasional member who heads the Backbenchers Club (BBC). Tiong King Sing said there would be no more hindrances to the press in the lobby.

“It’s back to normal. If you have any trouble, come and see me,” he said.

The protest was endorsed by chief editors of the newspapers, TV and radio network and web sites.

The coverage had been confined to only the proceedings. Only Bernama, the official news agency, reported press conferences of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak Tuesday.

Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia had defended the decision citing “security reasons”. Following the media protests, Mulia had said the decision was not final, urging: “Wait first. Be patient”.

The Star said the curbs on entering parliament’s lobby had “infuriated” the journalists. More than 100 representatives from various media organisations were allowed at a small corner, where press conferences are normally held.

The issue began last Friday when the parliament administration faxed a notice to media organisations after informing them of a new measure of limiting the number of pressmen covering parliament to five at any one time effective from Monday. It cited security reasons.

On Tuesday, red tape was used to cordon off the lobby with security guards stationed in the area. Only non-press members and civil servants were allowed in.

Pressmen, thus, only had access to the cafeteria, the small corner for press conferences and the speaker’s office.

They had none to the lounge meant for MPs, the cubicles for ministers, the bridge linking the lobby to the next building where the prime minister’s office is located, mobile post offices and ATM machines.

The opposition had criticised the curbs. Among them was Penang state Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who told the speaker that the ban did not reflect on freedom of press nor showcased the institution as a “first-world parliament”.

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