By Anisah Shukry
The Malaysian Insider
May 01, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 — Putrajaya must form an independent panel to investigate claims that police manhandled journalists covering Saturday’s Bersih rally, journalist organisations said today.
The National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJ) maintained that the panel should comprise a retired judge, a former Bar Council President as well as journalism experts.
“Reporters, including those from foreign press, were beaten while on duty, and this is a serious accusation.
“The panel should summon police officers involved, as well as the journalists and photographers to testify, so that the public can finally know what transpired during the Bersih 3.0 rally,” NUJ said in a statement.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) revealed in a statement that more than 12 photographers and journalists were assaulted, intimidated or detained by police while reporting the rally.
“Many were injured, with some receiving injuries serious enough to require stitches and hospitalisation,” it said.
The IFJ added they were alarmed to have witnessed police officers threatening and assaulting journalists who were “only engaged in reporting legitimate news stories”.
“The press should be able to report freely on events in the public interest, without fear for their public safety.
“We urge Inspector-General Tan Sri Ismail to ensure police officers fulfil their duty to protect the safety of media personnel in the interests of press freedom,” it said.
Yesterday, human rights group Proham called for an independent panel to investigate all instances of violence that took place during the Bersih rally, adding that the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) could help with the probe.
The Bersih rally for free and fair elections turned chaotic when Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel began firing tear gas and water cannons after demonstrators breached police lines in their attempt to reach Dataran Merdeka.
The event was initially planned for the historic square but authorities had secured a court order on Friday barring its use for public assemblies until May 1, forcing Bersih supporters to splinter into groups.