Journalists to mount ‘red pencil’ protest

Billy Boey

The Movement of Angry Media (Geramm) will be holding a protest next Saturday to campaign for press freedom in the wake of the indefinite suspension of news weekly magazine The Heat.

The protest, dubbed ‘Red Pencil’, will be held on Jan 4 in downtown Kuala Lumpur, announced Geramm at the ‘Free the Media’ forum last night.
“By Jan 4, if The Heat did not hit the news stands, we will hit the streets,” said Malaysiakini chief editor Fathi Aris Omar (left), who is one of the forum organisers.

“Even if The Heat hit the news stands, we will still hit the streets,” he added, stressing that the rally is not just to protest the suspension of the news weekly but also a host of other issues affecting press freedom in Malaysia.

A red pencil will be snapped by the protesters as a symbol of the harassment of journalists and media organisations by the government. The broken pencils will then be collected and sent to the Home Ministry.

“The protest is not only to revive The Heat, but also to demand, among others, an end to violence against journalists,” said Fathi, referring to a list of demands by Geramm, which includes the assault of journalists who were on duty at the Bersih 3.0 rally last year.

Six speakers from several top news portal as well as media activists spoke at Geramm’s ‘Free the Media’ forum last night at Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH).
Among those on the panel were Malaysiakini founder and editor-in chief Steven Gan, The Malaysian Insider assistant news editor V Anbalagan, Free Malaysia Today chief reporter G Vinod, Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) executive officer Masjaliza Hamzah, Reporters without Borders (RSF) representative Hata Wahari, and independent publisher and cartoonist Ronasina.

The two-hour event was moderated by Zakiah Koya from news portal Fz.com.
The forum issued the following eight demands to the government and related parties to uphold press freedom in Malaysia:

To the government
1. Withdraw the suspension of The Heat weekly and let it operate as normal.
2. Thoroughly investigate the violence inflicted by police against media practitioners during the Bersih 3.0 rally in 2012.
3. Abolish the publication permit which is made mandatory under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984.
4. Allow all media practitioners to cover government events and access to public buildings for news gathering purposes.
5. Apologise to media practitioners for any breach of media freedom and rights.

To political parties
6. Give full access to all media practitioners without discrimination to public activities and press conferences.

To media organisations and journalists
7. Practice good journalistic ethics and give balanced and fair reporting to all.
8. Uphold the spirit of press freedom and human rights.
The Heat was suspended indefinitely by the Home Ministry earlier this month, over what is believed to be a November article on the profligate spending of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor.

This sparked the formation of Geramm by a group of mostly online journalists and media activists, leading to the launch of a campaign to protest the Home Ministry’s suspension of the news weekly.

Last night’s forum was attended by over 200 media practitioners and supporters, including politicians, members of the Bar Council as well as 8,000 viewers who followed the proceedings live on TV Selangor. – Malaysiakini

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