Media group slams Umno division’s bar on non-Malay journalists

Umno vice-president Ismai Sabri Yaakob (centre) at the Lembah Pantai Umno meeting today. A media group says non-Malay reporters and photographers were asked to leave before the meeting began. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: A media activist group has taken issue with a ban on non-Malay journalists from covering a meeting of the Lembah Pantai Umno division today.

The group, Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm), said in a statement that a complaint had been received that the journalists and photographers, believed to be from the vernacular press, had been asked to leave the event hall shortly before the proceedings began.

Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob was scheduled to open the meeting but the journalists were told that the event was a “Malay conference” and only Malays were allowed to cover the opening, Geramm said.

The group said the Umno division’s action went against media freedom and was clearly a form of racial discrimination.

All media representatives, regardless of language, had the same right of access to news sources, the group said, and any restrictions on the media should be placed only on reasonable grounds, such as security.

All Umno meetings are closed-door events, says Ismail Sabri

Ismail Sabri later told reporters that all Umno meetings were held behind closed doors and media representatives were advised to conduct their interviews before or after the event.

“Sometimes, reporters do not understand that and they write news reports on the opening speech, which can lead to wrongdoings and outrage,” he said, according to Utusan Malaysia Online.

Also present were Lembah Pantai Umno division chief Ramlan Askolani and Lembah Pantai deputy president Fauzi Abu Bakar.

Ismail said Lembah Pantai Umno officials had explained the situation and asked for cooperation from reporters.

“That was all, you know,” he was quoted as saying, adding that some divisional officials were experienced and some were new, but he was not sure about Lembah Pantai.