KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — Press groups urged Datuk Seri Najib Razak today to investigate alleged violence against journalists covering yesterday’s Bersih rally.
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.
“We urge Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to conduct a thorough and swift investigation, and charge those responsible for these violent acts, including those allegedly committed by police personnel towards journalists,” the six organisations said in a joint press statement.
“Our organisations view these incidents as a concerted attack on media freedom since they appear to be aimed at preventing professional journalistic documentation of alleged police violence against some of Bersih protesters.”
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.”
The organisations, which include Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia and Journalist Union of North Malaya, added that compensation must be given to journalists whose equipment had been deliberately damaged.
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.