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Violence against journalists

Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Guang Ming Daily

Lim Ah Chye, the Penang Voluntary Patrol Unit (PPS) member who assaulted Guang Ming Daily deputy crime chief Ang Kean Siang, was charged in a court. He admitted of having caused injuries to Ang and destroying his camera, and was fined RM3,000 for these two counts of criminal offences.

The accused had earlier held a press conference to offer an open apology and Ang was willing to accept his apology and forego his right to pursue this matter legally The incident was later taken over by the police which wound up the case promptly in accordance with the country's penal code, thus bringing the whole matter to a close.

That said, the incident has nevertheless dealt a serious blow on the journalistic profession. The sloppy manner with which the authorities have handled the incident as well as the light punishment handed down to the attacker have inflicted further damages to press freedom and media practitioners.

RM3,000 to cause injuries to a reporter carrying out his journalistic duty is "well worth the price" for political parties and gangsters who see reporters as uncompromised foes. Reporters are tasked with the frontline mission of revealing the various irregularities lurking in our society in upholding the interests of the public, but are unfortunately denied of their deserved legal protection. How could anyone demand that reporters write without fear or favour?

In this incident, both the police and prosecution have completely overlooked the fact that the reporter was cajoled by the PPS member in uniform to a place where his freedom was denied and where he was brutally beaten up. This whole procedure involved planned abduction, illegal confinement and inflicting serious physical as well as psychological hurt to the victim.

As if that was not enough, the victim and his girlfriend both received death threats from the attacker and repeated harassment demanding him to cancel the police report. The former shall be construed as an act of criminal intimidation while the latter, interference with court of justice and investigative proceedings. The police appeared to have turned a blind eye to this whole thing.

The incident also entailed abuse of power by a member of uniformed group. Unfortunately, all this has not been taken into consideration by the prosecution in lashing out more stringent punishment on the culprit. This is not a misjudgement on the part of the court but the result of negligence and connivance right from the onset.

Political parties, ruling or opposition, as well as the police have all this while paid little attention to cases of assaults on reporters. All these years, we have seen reporters being brutally attacked in public by Umno Youth members, Perkasa supporters, bodyguard of a PKR leader, police cops in uniform and now a member of the patrol unit set up by Penang state government, but none has been dealt with seriously.

Due to certain political considerations, political parties and police have attempted to protect the culprits and intentionally whitewash the negative impact of such incidents, totally annulling the integrity of press freedom and physical safety of journalists.

We are now ushering in a new era of "civilian reporters" where everyone carries a mobile phone with camera functions and where everyone is allowed to express freely on a social media site, allowing him to assume a watchdog role on social happenings as well as government administration while broadening the scope of media freedom.

Imagine some day when you pick up your phone to take the picture of a garbage contractor not disposing the rubbish properly, and get madly beaten up, your phone completely destroyed, and death threats served on you. In the end, the contractor walks away with only a lenient RM3,000 fine.

To some extent reporters are acting on behalf of the public. If we do not persistently defend press freedom and seek more just punishments on those involved in causing harm to reporters, not only will reporters and press organisations be denied of their safety and professional dignity, the entire civilian society will also see its right to information and expression usurped.


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