Why did the police do what they did?

By Zan Azlee
July 15, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

JULY 15 — The tough policeman with the huge muscles grabbed me by my shoulders and flung me towards the sidewalk not caring that I had a press tag around my neck.

I struggled to keep my balance and not drop my camera. I barely managed to not trip over the curb.

“Halau cameraman itu! (Get rid of that cameraman!)” screamed the policeman’s other colleagues.

My crime? I was shooting a bunch of arrested demonstrators being led out of Tung Shin Hospital and through a police line.

The detainees had their hands “cuffed” and looked pretty much subdued. However, as they were led through the line, they were kicked and punched by the police.

I was on assignment for The Malaysian Insider to gather video footage of the Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur on July 9.

But I couldn’t get enough footage of that incident since I ended up behind police lines along with other members of the media, cordoned off from what was happening.

There were many instances on the day when demonstrators were being arrested and people around would start yelling for the media to come document it.

“Media! Cepat! Polis tengah tahan orang! (Media! Hurry up! The police are arresting people!)” they would scream.

Many of them wanted visual proof that the police were being overly-aggressive when it came to arresting peaceful demonstrators.

Many also realised that if the media was around during the arrests, the police were less likely to use excessive force.

To me, that is just proof that a free and balanced media is a very important component to keep the wheel of democracy spinning smoothly.

But, of course, keeping things going smoothly can be close to impossible while being under such tense situations.

In the morning, before the demonstrators arrived in the city, the situation was very calm even though there were police everywhere.

The media, myself included, were free to roam around, taking pictures and video of the police all ready to face the day.

When the demonstrators started arriving, things got a bit tense. However, as far as my observations went, the tension did not arise from the demonstrators.

They were just marching and chanting for free elections. It was when the crowd got big (around 10,000 of them) that trouble started in front of Menara Maybank.

The trouble definitely did not start with the demonstrators. They didn’t approach the police. It was the police who came in firing tear gas and chemically-laced water.

The demonstrators were pushed back towards Jalan Pudu and that’s when all the aggressive arrests started happening.

At this point, the media were allowed free movement, even though we were screamed at to move away by the police. But we were not physically man-handled.

It was only after the second wave of tear gas attacks that the police started to control the media by cordoning them off behind police lines.

My friend, film director Liew Seng Tat, came to me and said he saw the police firing tear gas into Tung Shin Hospital. He then disappeared to join the rest.

Twenty minutes later, he was arrested and brought through the same police line that kicked and punched him while his hands were cuffed behind him.

The media must be given freedom to be there, if not to prevent it from happening in the first place, then definitely in order to inform the public of what happened.

I spoke to a journalist from a local 24-hour news channel and told him about how the police shoved me away and didn’t allow me to shoot them beating up detainees.

“Footage macam itu memang tak boleh keluar TV pun (Footage like that can’t be shown on TV anyway),” he shrugged.

The response that I got from him showed me the defeatist attitude of some segments of the local media and this almost got me down for a while.

But thank God that feeling didn’t last long and I still believe in the power of the media when it comes to sticking up for human rights and defending the ordinary folk.

I also believe that the police exist to serve the people and keep them protected and safe. Then why did they attack, arrest and beat peaceful demonstrators?

They must know that they were doing wrong if they felt the need to keep the media away from witnessing what they were doing.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Friday, 15 July 2011 - 1:02 pm

    Dis is 1 main reason Y rakyat must CHANGE d occupants of Putrajaya

  2. #2 by All For The Road on Friday, 15 July 2011 - 1:50 pm

    It is not PDRM . It IS PRDM – Polis Raja Di Malaysia! Who else can touch them!

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