KUALA LUMPUR: Online journalists have vowed to hit the streets on Jan 4 to put pressure on the government to lift the suspension on the weekly newspaper, The Heat.
They also want an investigation on the police brutality against journalists during Bersih 3.0 in 2012.
Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm), a coalition of online new agencies, demanded that the government uphold press freedom and abolish the need for publication permits under the Printing Press and Publications Act (PPPA).
Geramm said this at a forum at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCH) last night.
Malaysiakini editor Fathi Aris Omar will lead the coalition in staging the protest to highlight the plight of journalists and as an awareness campaign to the educate the public.
Online journalists said the Home Ministry’s decision to suspend the weekly was undemocratic and a clear abuse to civil rights.
“We want the government to respect our rights and to lift the suspension of The Heat.
“The reason given by the ministry is unacceptable and we know it is a move to restrict us from reporting the news,” said Fathi Aris.
Masjaliza Hamzah from Centre of Independent Journalism (CIJ) slammed the government for not being able to investigate the incident where journalists and photographers were beaten up during the 2012 Bersih rally.
“The police officers involved were never charged as the government had failed to conduct a fair investigation,” she said.
Free Malaysia Today (FMT) senior reporter G.Vinod questioned the absence of the National the Union of Journalists (NUJ) at the forum.
“When our fellow journalists are being bullied, where is the NUJ? They are the ones who should sit and talk in this forum.
“The treatment on journalists by the government cannot be accepted. Besides carrying stories, we act as a check and balance to democracy. We cannot call ourselves a democratic country when the media is not free and fair,” he said.
Former Utusan Malaysia writer Hata Wahari decribed the Malay daily’s news as unethical and practising double standard.
He urged fellow journalists to not give the government the opportunity to right of reply as it was unnecessary.
“Nothing has changed after so many years and we are still being bullied. I would like to call for a more radical approach, apart from talking in forums.
“Let us pile up copies of The Heat and put it in front of the Home Ministry’s office,” he said.
Eric Paulsen from Lawyers for Liberty said he would help journalists who received any form of threats.
“If journalists are sued or arrested we will provide legal assistance. We will also help journalists who are planning to sue to government,” he said.
The Heat was suspended last week by the Home Ministry for violating provisions under its printing permit and denied claims that the suspension was related to the weekly’s report on Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor.
The weekly, which was launched in September, was suspended after getting a second show-cause letter from the ministry.
Alfian ZM Tahir , Free Malaysia Today