Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Special tags do not guarantee safety of journalists

January 9, 2013
FMT LETTER: From Nalini Elumalai, via e-mail
Suaram refers to the Malaysiakini report, ‘Cops to issue special tags for Saturday rally’ and views the unprecedented move by the police issuing special tag to the journalist as unprofessional and suspicious.
The reason given by the ACP Ramli Mohammed Yoosuf is that the tags were to ensure the safety of journalist and to avoid untoward incidents like Bersih 3.0 rally where journalists were brutally assaulted by the police.
Suaram had in the past demanded that journalists on duty at rallies be protected. However the move to issue special tags to journalists alone does not guarantee their safety and casts doubts on police’s duty to ensure peace and order since participants will be easily identified.
We question the necessity to issue special tags to the press when the  press has already been issued authorised tags by the information ministry. Each media organisation now has their own media tags.
What the police should be concerned of is not how to tag the media but rather to initiate a Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) to deal with members of the media and to allow and protect them in their duty to cover and disseminate the information to the public without any interference and aggression from the police.
Suaram is of the view that instead, a clear separation is needed between the police (uniformed or not) and the protesters and that it is extremely important for the police to wear their identification badges bearing their names and identification numbers.
Police identification was the major issue in so far as Bersih 3.0 rally was concerned whereby victims of police violence had failed to identify the aggressors who were on duty without their identifications. Many young police officers were not apprehended due to this factor alone.
Suaram notes the responsibility of the force to ensure the safety of journalists but is equally concerned about the safety of participants. Suaram states that the police shall proactively ensure all rallies, including the one scheduled for this Saturday (Jan 12) to be in order and safe for both the journalists and the participants.
The fundamental right to assemble peacefully is the people’s right, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The writer is the new Executive Director of Suaram

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