PETALING JAYA: The most important role of journalists is to ask tough and relevant questions and it is the duty of politicians to answer as honestly and clearly as possible, according to a think tank.
Emir Research CEO and president Rais Hussin said journalists play a role and function in holding politicians to account and complement the check-and-balance dynamics in the political system.
“This is why for politicians to be abrasive and disrespectful towards journalists is most uncalled for. In a multi-party democracy, politicians from all sides of the divide depend on journalists to highlight issues and cases on their behalf.
“They must, therefore, adapt to a culture and norm in which difficult and challenging questions posed by journalists are to be expected and, indeed, to be welcomed.
“They should see such a situation as an opportunity to clarify their stand on a controversial issue such as the banning of 4D outlets in Kedah,” he said in a statement.
FMT had reported that two PAS leaders – one a minister and the other a deputy minister – became confrontational when an FMT reporter asked questions related to the PAS-led Kedah government’s decision to ban gaming outlets in the state.
PAS vice-president Idris Ahmad, a senator who is religious affairs minister, pointedly asked Minderjeet Kaur if she could tolerate her husband being a gambler, while Awang Hashim, who is deputy human resources minister and MP for Pendang, insisted that she ask her questions in Bahasa Malaysia.
Rais said PAS officials must have had their reasoning, including statistics and research findings, before deciding on the gaming ban.
“All they had to do was properly and respectfully convey this, especially to the press,” he said.
He said difficult, challenging or “awkward” questions allowed politicians to sharpen and hone their communication and presentation skills.
“Being a politician is about being a good communicator in the first place,” he said.
Rais said personal attacks or criticising someone using the English language was not only irrelevant and morally wrong but also not supported by the Federal Constitution.
He cited Article 152, which states that the “national language shall be the Malay language and shall be in such script as Parliament may by law, provided that no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (other than for official purposes), or from teaching or learning, any other language”.
“Minderjeet should know that the rest of civilised Malaysians are with her. She must continue to play her crucial role and she must do it without fear or favour. Let her do her job.
“On the other hand, if politicians are uncomfortable, annoyed and unable to maintain good character such as behave in a way becoming of what their office, party and religion represent, or respect other people and basic constitutional rights, then perhaps they are not fit for office,” he said.
‘Heartless bully of minorities and women’
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said the party would demand a public apology from the two PAS leaders “who were rude and harassed” Minderjeet by referring to family in response to her persistent queries on the Kedah gaming ban.
“Both leaders have once again shown the true face of PAS as a heartless bully of minorities and women, who have no place under the extremist policies of PAS,” he said.
Klang MP Charles Santiago said the two PAS leaders had responded by harassing the journalist essentially because she was a woman.
“This is sexism. If they cannot answer her questions, they should say so instead of bullying her and dragging her family into it,” he said.
He said silencing the media was an attempt to control the narrative of the ban.
“Show proof of non-Muslims saying yes to the ban on gaming outlets. This attempt at Islamisation doesn’t bode well for secular Malaysia.
“There are many other issues that have destroyed families, such as corruption, lack of jobs, loss of income. What has PAS done to mitigate them?” he said.