(Najib pic courtesy of theSun)
PETALING JAYA, 9 April 2009: Chinese online news site Merdeka Review was barred from entering the Prime Minister’s Department today to report on the announcement of the new cabinet.
The order to bar Merdeka Review‘s reporter and photographer was issued by the prime minister’s office, according to an officer who declined to fully identify himself.
Reporter Wong Shu Qi said upon her arrival at the guardhouse of the prime minister’s office at 2.30pm today with photographer Saw Siow Feng, she was asked which media outfit they were with.
Once she identified their news organisation, she was immediately told by the security personnel that Merdeka Review was barred.
“When I asked why, they told me they were only following instructions,” she told The Nut Graph.
Wong was then given a phone number and the name of an officer said to be Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s “pegawai khas”.
“When I asked him why Merdeka Review was being barred, he told me it was an order from the prime minister’s office,” she said. “He said he wasn’t sure why we were being barred, and there was no black-and-white instruction.”
Wong said the security personnel at the guard house told her that the officer had earlier informed them to bar Merdeka Review from entering the Prime Minister’s Department for Najib’s 3pm cabinet announcement.
When The Nut Graph rang the officer, he confirmed that he was merely carrying out instructions from the prime minister’s office. He declined to give his full name or to fully identity his position in the prime minister’s administration.
Other online news sites such as Malaysiakini and The Nut Graph were allowed in.
Merdeka Review editor-in-chief Chang Teck Peng said this was the first time they had been barred from the Prime Minister’s Department.
“We didn’t have problems going in to report before, even when we hadn’t yet gotten our Information Department media accreditation tags,” he said in a phone interview.
The barring of Merdeka Review from Najib’s announcement happened just three days after Najib delivered a speech at the Malaysian Press Institute’s Press Night on 6 April 2009, where he stressed on the need for a “vibrant, free and informed media”.
In his speech, delivered on his fourth day as premier, he also said, “If we are to build a democracy that is responsive to the needs of all the people, we need a media — both old and new — that is empowered to responsibly report what they see, without fear of consequence, and to hold governments and public officials accountable for the results they achieve or do not achieve.”