CIJ supports Bersih 2.0’s call for peaceful assembly
Media Statement (17 June 2011)
The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia expresses its support for Bersih 2.0’s call for a peaceful assembly on 9 July 2011 to highlight the need for free and fair elections.
CIJ is also concerned that various parties, including the police and Umno-controlled Utusan Malaysia, have condemned this peaceful assembly and asked for it to be called off. CIJ is particularly concerned that Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has raised the possibility of detentions without trial under the Internal Security Act arising out of this assembly.
CIJ would like to remind the authorities that the right to peacefully assemble is a guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. Furthermore, the need to apply for a police permit for peaceful assemblies goes beyond the permitted restrictions under Article 10. CIJ draws attention to the Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s repeated recommendations that the requirement for police permits for peaceful assemblies be repealed and that the police actively cooperate with demonstrators.
CIJ also would like to state that “causing traffic jams” is not a legitimate reason to prevent peaceful assemblies. Such assemblies are a constitutional right and the authorities should be taking steps to actively protect this right and educate the public about the importance of this fundamental right.
If the government and the authorities are truly serious about preventing “chaos” and maintaining public order, it should cooperate with Bersih 2.0, instead of taking steps to hinder the gathering.
Properly cordoned-off roads, traffic marshals and police escorts along the demonstration route will help to ensure a smooth demonstration and maintain order. Setting up unnecessary road blocks across Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur, calling in hundreds of anti-riot police and busing in reinforcement from outside Klang Valley, firing tear gas and water cannons and making hundreds of arrests, as has been done in the past, only contributes to the chaos that the authorities are purportedly keen on avoiding.
Bersih 2.0 has pledged to hold a peaceful, responsible gathering and has openly stated their wish to cooperate with the police. This offer should be actively taken up by the police to ensure the gathering remains peaceful and orderly.
CIJ supports Bersih 2.0’s call for free and fair elections, especially the call for free and fair access to media during elections. It is apparent in CIJ’s ongoing media monitoring exercise that most of the mainstream print media are heavily biased towards the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional. Pakatan Rakyat leaders are often criticised without being given the right of reply. This violates journalism ethics and must be corrected before the next general election. All political parties should be given equal access to the media and be allowed to advertise in all media without discrimination and censorship, as demanded by Bersih 2.0.
CIJ also supports Bersih 2.0’s demands that proportionate airtime be allocated on RTM and Bernama for all contesting parties, since these are publicly funded media agencies.
For more information, please contact: Masjaliza Hamzah, CIJ Executive Officer, 03-4023 0772
CIJ is a non-profit organisation that aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free, where all peoples will enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek and impart information. cijmalaysia.org