KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — The Putrajaya government is responsible for the attacks on journalists by police during the Bersih 3.0 rally yesterday, PKR vice-president N. Surendran said today.
“Such coordinated and sustained attacks could not have been carried out without orders from the police leadership and Home Ministry,” Surendran said today in a press statement.
“The motive of the harassment and physical attacks was to prevent journalists from recording police aggression, violence and assaults upon the public,” he added.
Surendran said he believed this was why “the press were systematically and deliberately targeted by the police force”.
He noted the arrests of photojournalists from Malaysiakini and Guang Ming newspaper and a Malay Mail journalist.
He added that journalists from Nanyang, Channel News Asia, Al Jazeera, Makkal Osai and Merdeka Review were also assaulted or had their cameras damaged or memory cards confiscated.
Surendran accused the BN government of breaching the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
“The BN government has embarrassed our nation by its lawless and thuggish assault upon the press and the public who had gathered peacefully for electoral reform,” he said.
“This unprecedented assault upon the media also proves the insincerity and emptiness of (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s) recent claim that he had increased press freedom by amendments to the PPPA (Printing Presses and Publications Act) 1984,” he added.
Surendran reiterated that the BN government must “take full responsibility for the criminal acts against the press on (April 28, 2012)”.
“We further call upon Najib to issue an immediate guarantee that the BN government will respect press freedom and cease all further interference with the press when carrying out their duties.”
It was reported some 388 protesters had been arrested as of 9pm at the Bersih 3.0 rally for electoral reforms here yesterday.
The number arrested is far fewer than the 1,667 detained during the Bersih 2.0 rally in the city held in July 9 last year.
Yesterday, police had fired water cannons and tear gas at demonstrators who pushed through the barricade in front of the DBKL building, resulting in chaos on the streets.
Some of the 15,000-strong crowd broke down the barriers and moved towards the historic square, resulting in police firing chemical-laced water and tear gas canisters.
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali tried to negotiate with police, who told the Gombak MP to calm the group down. But despite his advice they still broke through the barricades.
Police fired as far as the DBKL premises, which are across Jalan Parlimen, and the move broke up the crowd at Dataran who fled helter-skelter.
Angry protestors later attacked a police car which then crashed into at least two people while trying to flee.
The angry crowd then surrounded the policemen but volunteers from PKR’s Jingga 13 formed a human shield around the officers, saying “don’t blame them, it’s not their fault.”
After an ambulance took away the injured policemen, the protestors flipped the car over on its side but then fled after tear gas was fired.