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"Malaysiakini" interns assaulted by political party leaders

Former prime minister Najib Razak greets supporters as he leaves the courthouse after being charged, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 12 December 2018
Former prime minister Najib Razak greets supporters as he leaves the courthouse after being charged, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 12 December 2018

MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 27 March 2019.

Umno leaders and supporters harassed two Malaysiakini interns as they covered a talk by the former Prime Minister in Kuala Lumpur on March 22. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists, Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM), have strongly criticized the attack and demanded an investigation.

The two interns, Mariam Nazar and Ramieza Wahid, were verbally and physically harassed as they covered a talk by former Prime Minister Najib Razak. Nazar was harassed by the Chief of Umno Petaling Jaya Selatan Mutalib Abdul Rahim and Umno Supreme Council Member Lokman Noor Adam. Wahid was shoved by supporters and also verbally abused.

Mariam said Lokman, one of the harassers, put his face near her face. She told Lokman to move aside and respect her personal space. She then contacted Malaysiakini's desk editor Jimadie Shah Othman to alert him on the situation. While Mariam was doing that, Mutalib, the second harasser, snatched his name card from her hand and injured her finger.

Umno supporters were angered with a Malaysiakini article about several Najib supporters who confronted a group of University Malaya students.

Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan condemned the harassment. "They have crossed the line by verbally and physically attacking our interns who were just doing their job. We must send a loud and clear message that such violence will not be tolerated," he said.

President of National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJ) Taufek Razak said all parties should understand the task of a journalist attending any program strictly to cover and not get personally involved in that program. All parties, he added, must respect the role and duty of journalists and not take irrational actions. No one can take the law in their own hands.

"NUJ condemns the action of the unruly mob and said it was uncalled for, that journalists become victims. NUJ calls the police to act promptly as the victim has already made the police report. NUJ insists that journalists adhere strictly to the journalists' code of conduct and maintain [the media's] role as government watchdog and cannot be seen to side with any faction nor conform to any political agendas."

The IFJ said: "Harassment of journalists hinders free media from operating as it should, which ultimately harms the democratic process. We urge all political actors to take concrete measures in order to protect press freedom and freedom of expression."

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