Stop the racial-profiling and intimidation of journalists
LETTER | We refer to the Malaysiakini article Minister dodges race-related poser, then reposts 'Chinese reporter' caption on FB.
The Agora Society is appalled at the racial profiling of Ng Xiang Yi, a Malaysiakini journalist, by the Entrepreneur Development Minister Mohd Redzuan Mohd Yusof, in recent days.
Ng was asking the minister to elaborate on his previous claims that “the Malays have compromised too much” at a public event on Aug 19. Instead of addressing the question, Redzuan replied by asking the journalist if she knew of the Malaysian constitution and the Rukun Negara. Ng replied that she is aware of the constitution and Rukun Negara and kept probing for the minister’s comments on the issue raised. However, Redzuan abruptly and arrogantly concluded that she "doesn’t know".
Later, Redzuan uploaded a video clip of the exchange on his official Facebook page with a caption that read, "Minister surprised at a Chinese reporter's ignorance of the Malaysian constitution", an act that is unbecoming of his position as a minister.
Being an office-bearer, Redzuan should adhere to the principles of professionalism, impartiality, responsibility and openness, especially when faced with the Fourth Estate, ie. the media. He ought to answer the question in an unbiased manner without taking into account the questioner's religious, gender or ethnic background.
By deliberately highlighting the ethnicity of the Malaysiakini journalist with a view to divert attention and secondly, intimidating Ng through reinforcing the stereotypes about other ethnic groups, the Bersatu party leader has completely deviated from the code of conduct that is expected of a minister. Agora therefore condemns in no uncertain terms his behaviour as such.
It goes without saying that a yardstick for democratic evaluation is whether media operators are able to carry out their duties without any harassment, ie. inquiring, questioning and even challenging the powers-that-be, without fear or favour.
Malaysia under the BN government had been plagued by complex political, religious and ethnic structures that exerted enormous pressures on media workers, as a seemingly harmless news report could be easily turned into a racial or religious issue by irresponsible parties.
As Liew Chin Tong, the deputy defence minister has said, Malaysians after the so-called regime change should be entitled to exercise an unbridled yet responsible press freedom. Yet, Pakatan Harapan has not been practising what they preached and chose to keep intact a series of arbitrary laws bequeathed by BN.
Bersatu leaders - from Dr Mahathir Mohamad downwards - have even made statements that border on bigotry and racism at times, giving rise to the increasingly popular perception that the Malay party bears a striking resemblance to Umno.
Redzuan's recent conduct towards the Malaysiakini reporter - who is of Chinese origin - has set a disgraceful example, as a result of which other media workers may begin to experience psychological pressures or even practise self-censorship when covering "sensitive" issues, thereby affecting the quality of Malaysia’s news.
In closing, the Agora Society strongly demands that the Harapan government take Redzuan's lack of decorum seriously and prescribe disciplinary actions commensurate therewith so that other politicians will not take a leaf from him.
We also urge other civil society organisations and the general public to shoulder together with us the task of monitoring the conduct of politicians, government and opposition alike, for we believe a strong civil society is the best way to check and balance the political forces in the country.
The Agora Society Malaysia is a loose network of individuals who believe in the principles of democracy and good governance.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.