Geramm criticises opening of investigation papers over journalist’s flood report

PETALING JAYA: Several advocacy groups have criticised the opening of investigation papers over a reporter’s news piece on the recent floods.

Free Malaysia Today’s reporter Sean Augustin has been summoned for questioning on Wednesday (Jan 5) over the report published on Dec 21 last year, according to The Rakyat Post.

The report, titled “Fed up of waiting, the military rolls into flood relief” had quoted anonymous sources claiming that the Malaysian Armed Forces had initiated flood evacuation operations without clearance from the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma), while the Selangor government was supposedly reluctant to get the military involved.

In a statement, Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) said they defended the right of the media to ask questions and carry out its duties without any interference or pressure, while the relevant parties have the right and responsibility to provide explanations.

“We are also firm with the demand for the setting-up of the Malaysian Media Council as a self-regulation mechanism and a platform to resolve any disputes with the media, without involving the investigation of the authorities.

“We acknowledge the responsibility of the authorities to investigate each report received, including recording the statements of relevant parties.

“In the context of articles citing anonymous sources, it should be noted that any media practitioner has the right to maintain the confidentiality of the identity of news sources – a basic principle of media freedom that is also confirmed through precedence in Malaysian courts.

“Geramm also hoped that the authorities would act transparently by informing the called media whether their statements would be recorded as witnesses to assist the investigation or otherwise, a police report had been lodged against them by any party.

“This will help the media to make preparations, including exercising the right to be accompanied by a lawyer, as well as speed up the entire process of recording the statement,” said Geramm.

Meanwhile, Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) vice-president Lim Wei Jiet said authorities should prioritise human resources, time and energy over flood relief efforts and cracking down on hardcore crime, rather than investigating a journalist who is just doing his job.

“Muda rejects any action that could be considered a threat to the media and journalists, which is an important pillar of the country’s democracy,” he said.

Malaysian Armed Forces chief Affendi Buan, in response to the FMT report, had previously told reporters that its personnel had been on stand-by two months earlier and did not need instructions to initiate flood relief efforts.

Nadma director-general Aminuddin Hassim had also denied the report, describing it as “made up”.