By Thanusya Shanmuganathan
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 ― Police were wrong to attack and injure reporters on duty at public rallies, the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) inquiry into the Bersih rally heard today from a journalists’ union leader, who added that a dozen members have complained of assaults.
“The policemen should not cause physical injuries on journalists,” said National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Malaysia secretary-general Anbalagan Veerasamy during today’s session of the inquiry.
“Even if they (journalists) have committed any offences, there is no need to hurt them. Just arrest them.”
Anbalagan, also a reporter with the New Straits Times Press, said he attended the April 28 rally to observe whether the reporters on duty that day were following standard operating procedure (SOP).
He added that it is also improper for police to confiscate personal effects of the journalists such as cameras and memory cards.
“I think the police did this so they can delete all evidence of them (police) committing violence during the rally,” he said.
Anbalagan added that to date, 12 journalists have submitted reports to NUJ, alleging they were assaulted by policemen during Bersih 3.0.
“Some journalists claim they were attacked by groups of people masquerading as policemen because they did not wear any identification tags.
“This unruly manner by the police has to stop so reporters can perform their duties, without being afraid of their safety,” he said.
He said that the Bersih rally was not “social unrest”, despite NUJ’s handbook for journalists stating that any public gathering is considered as such if any chaos occurs.
“The journalists were there on duty. They did not cause any chaos,” he said, responding to ACP Jamaluddin Abdul Rahman, who was holding a watching brief for the police.
Anbalagan also denied policemen’s allegations that they had problems identifying journalists during the rally due to the crowd.
“I do not think could have been problems to identify journalists there. Their behaviour would have shown they were journalists, even if their attire failed to do so.
“I see no reason for any confusion,” he said.
The inquiry panel, led by Suhakam vice-chairman Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee and aided by commissioners Professor Datuk Dr Mahmood Zuhdi Abdul Majid and Detta Samen, will be interviewing some 22 witnesses and selected members of the police force over a period of 22 days.
The inquiry continues on August 13.