KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — The seizure of camera equipment belonging to media personnel was made under police guidelines, Malaysiakini reported the home minister as saying today.
“I don't know. This is the standard operating procedure of police...,” Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was quoted as saying by the news portal.
Press groups have alleged that journalists were attacked during yesterday’s tumultuous Bersih rally here, along with the seizure and destruction of cameras and equipment belonging to members of the press.
Today, the organisations highlighted six cases in which reporters were allegedly assaulted by the police while on duty, as well as the arrests of photojournalist Koh Jun Lin and photographer Huang An Jin, which they viewed as an attack against press freedom.
Police were alleged to have also manhandled journalists Arif Kartono, P. Malayandy, Harry Fawcett and Chen Shaua Fui, and either confiscated or damaged their equipment.
They have urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to probe the allegations.
They added that the prime minister must ensure all uniformed personnel understand and respect the role of journalists as professionals tasked with witnessing and reporting matters of public interest.
“Like the police, journalists have a public duty to perform and they should be afforded protection towards this end,” they said.
“No journalist in a nation that prides itself as a democracy should ever be arrested for doing their job.”
Yesterday’s Bersih rally for free and fair elections turned chaotic when Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel began firing tear gas and water cannons after demonstrators breached police lines in their attempt to reach Dataran Merdeka.
The event was initially planned for the historic square but authorities had secured a court order on Friday barring its use for public assemblies until May 1, forcing Bersih supporters to splinter into groups.