PETALING JAYA: Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today criticised Dewan Rakyat Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia for admonishing the press on their coverage of parliamentary proceedings.
The NGO said as speaker, Pandikar could only inspire public confidence and respect through his conduct, not by defending himself in a press conference or berating the press.
“Pandikar’s role as the speaker cannot escape public scrutiny as the public has high expectations of his role as the highest authority of the Dewan Rakyat.
“His conduct in rejecting a record number of questions and shutting down any meaningful discussion on 1MDB is certainly an abuse of power and undemocratic to say the least.
“If he does not want the press to report unflatteringly on his conduct, then he should conduct himself better, be fair to all the parties and not attract controversy,” LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said in a statement.
In a press conference yesterday, Pandikar had likened his position to that of a judge and cautioned that any unfair reporting could amount to contempt of the Dewan Rakyat.
He said those who disparaged the Dewan Rakyat could go behind bars, giving the example of a case in India where two newspaper editors were cited for contempt.
Paulsen said Pandikar’s remarks were uncalled for, whether they had been intended as a joke or as a veiled threat.
“The speaker should know better that journalism is not a crime and the journalists were merely performing their role in a democracy to report on matters of public importance,” he said.
“It is essential that he must remain politically impartial at all times, and let democratic processes flourish, lest he be accused of being the speaker only for the government.”
This is not the first time Pandikar has locked horns with the press.
During the last Dewan Rakyat sitting in March this year, he barred members of the media from the Parliament lobby, saying journalists would only be allowed to cover sittings from the media centre located a floor below where the MPs hold their discussions.
In making the ruling, Pandikar had said that the lawmakers’ security was a cause for concern and the gathering of the media in the lobby was like a “picnic”.
He also said the presence of journalists and videographers in large numbers at the lobby, seeking comments from MPs, made them and himself uncomfortable and that the security of all was in question.