(Updated 9:45pm, 16 Jan 2009)
L-r: Ong Boon Keong, from Mafrel, Chan Wei See, Chen Shaua Fui and Haris Ibrahim at the poilice station
KUALA TERENGGANU, 16 Jan 2009: The Information Ministry today denied making any payment to journalists covering the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary by-election, polling for which is tomorrow.
The press secretary to the Information Minister, Hisham Abdul Hamid, said the ministry had never directed any of its officers to do such a thing.
“This has never been the practice of the Information Ministry,” he told Bernama here.
In a 3.40pm incident today, reporters working at the Information Ministry’s media centre for the Kuala Terengganu by-election got a surprise when they were each handed an envelope with RM300 inside.
No reason was provided for this mysterious “gift”.
Merdeka Review reporters Chan Wei See and Chen Shaua Fui lodged a police report about the incident at the Kuala Terengganu district police headquarters at 6.45pm.
The online news site has also reported the incident to election watchdog Malaysians for Free & Fair Election (Mafrel).
Reporters say an official working at the media centre asked them to write down their names, the organisations they represent and contact details on a piece of paper that was circulated around.
According to Merdeka Review‘s Chen, they were then told to put their initials on the paper before being given the envelope containing six RM50 notes, amounting to RM300.
Chen said that when the official passed the envelope to her, all he said was “Keep this”.
The Nut Graph reporter was not at the media centre when the incident allegedly took place.
Some of the reporters have already returned the money to the officials at the Media Centre.
When contacted, the head of the media centre, Zaid Ahmad, said he was not aware of any such incident.
Another online media reporter who did not want to be named was inspired by the incident to quote Tok Guru Datuk Seri Nik Aziz Nik Mat: “Bagi duit ambik, bagi kain pakai, tapi pangkoh bule.”
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Danny Lim is a freelance journalist and photographer.