Several Chinese newspapers in Malaysia “went black” to mark World Press Freedom Day on Thursday as a protest against the violence towards journalists during a recent opposition backed rally on electoral reforms.
Sin Chew Daily, Nanyang Siang Pau, China Press, Guang Ming Daily and Oriental Daily printed their front pages in black and white to remind readers and authorities of the struggles journalists face while carrying out their duties, especially during rallies.
Sin Chew Daily editor-in-chief Pook Ah Lek said the paper decided to do so because many pressmen, including photographers, had been beaten during the rally.
Mr. Pook, also Editors of Chinese Medium Malaysia Association president, said the Chinese Newspaper Photographers Association had also initiated a call for journalists and photographers to don black and wear a yellow ribbon.
Nanyang Siang Pau editor-in-chief Chong Choong Nam hoped the authorities would be reminded that media personnel should be given protection by the police.
Meanwhile, the Information, Communications and Culture Ministry have encouraged the screening of video recordings of Saturday’s rally to give the public an overall picture of what had happened.
Minister Rais Yatim said the ministry had asked television stations to look at the video recordings to show the rally participants’ behaviour.
“There were participants who smashed police patrol car windscreens. They should watch this video, while there are also videos showing policemen acting inappropriately.”
Home minister Hishammuddin Hussein has said an independent panel will be set up to investigate claims of police brutality against journalists covering Bersih 3.0 rally last Saturday.
Mr. Hishammuddin expressed regret that some journalists were allegedly treated badly.
“We have no qualms about doing that (forming the panel), and the IG police wants it to be transparent, even if it involves the police,” he said.
“I have to remind you that the worst case (of violence) involved a journalist, Mohamad Azri (Salleh) from Al-Hijrah (TV), who was set upon while trying to save a police (officer).
“It was not the police who set on him, so please be fair in that context,” he said.
Mr. Hishammuddin noted that the Cabinet had ordered the police and the Attorney-General to expedite investigations and charge those responsible for turning the rally into a riot.