DAP says it never barred Utusan from Penang assembly sittings

-A +A

(October 14): DAP parliamentary whip Anthony Loke denied that the Penang government had banned Umno mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia from state functions, which in turn caused Malaysia's dismal showing in the World Press Freedom index.

The Seremban MP said although the state did not invite any reporter from the media company, it, however, never stopped anyone from covering the state assembly sittings.

"We wish to say that although we did not invite any reporter from Utusan Malaysia, we have never barred any reporter from doing his job," he said at a press conference at the Parliament lobby today.

This came about after Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said this morning the Penang government was also responsible for Malaysia's dismal showing in last year's World Press Freedom index, as it has barred certain media from covering events such as the state assembly sitting.

Malaysia fell to 145th position out of 179 countries in the rankings by Reporters Without Borders. It was in 122nd place in 2012.

Loke, however, said that the ranking on press freedom was based on certain criteria, including government policy.

"It is irresponsible of the minister to blame Penang for the weaknesses in press freedom.”

The communications and multimedia minister said Penang's DAP-led government had barred Utusan Malaysia from covering the state assembly, which led to the drop in the press freedom rankings.

"But we (the Barisan Nasional government) have not stopped Malaysiakini and other media from covering Parliament," Shabery had said.

He was answering a supplementary question from Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming, who asked how the ministry would ensure media freedom in the country.

Nga had said that national broadcaster Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) was biased in its reporting, which favoured the ruling BN government despite being owned by the state.

But Shabery said parliamentary proceedings were broadcast over RTM, proving that that the government was "more open" now.

"This move started with us. It is a new step towards becoming more open."