Malaysia: Amanah MP says restriction on journalists in Parliament coincides with budget vote

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Kuala Terengganu MP Datuk Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah today questioned Parliament's decision to restrict the number of media personnel reporting on proceedings, saying it could be linked to today's vote on Budget 2016. He said the timing of the move was suspicious and believed it was a targeted move meant to stifle press freedom.

"It seems to be very targeted. Today is a very important day. Today is the day they can see a very important occasion may happen," said Raja Kamarul who is part of Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah). 

"The voting may go against government... even the BN MPs may defect. So is this why they have chosen today of all days to start? Parliament has already started three weeks ago.

"I am quite convinced this is on purpose and particularly targeted for today's occasion where they may have something extraordinary happening in Parliament," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby today.

Pakatan Harapan, comprising of PKR, DAP and Amanah, have said they would vote down Budget 2016 and have urged BN lawmakers to do the same in order to unseat Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is under pressure over allegations of corruption and misappropriation of public funds.

The opposition coalition said there was a possibility that the budget could be voted down as it was rumoured that some BN MPs would join the opposition coalition in rejecting it.

Raja Kamarul said the latest decision regarding the media contradicted the calls for parliamentary reforms by Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia.

"They are talking about parliamentary reforms, further improving democracy but their actions do not reflect that so like we said, you have to  walk the talk. "The government must do what they preach as the press is certainly getting shabby treatment," he added.

Parliament's corporate communications division announced last week that limited space forced it to impose the rule, allowing only three representatives per organisation, which was mooted by Pandikar in a closed door meet with media editors several weeks ago.

The rule took effect today as Parliament reconvened after the Deepavali break last week. The rule would mean only two journalists and one photographer from each media agency are allowed to cover parliamentary proceedings at any given time. 

SOURCE: The Malaysia Insider, November 16th 2015: