The Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IoJM) strongly objects to the manner in which freelance photojournalist Alexandra Radu was “taken away” for documentation purposes in the course of reporting on the destruction of the Temiar blockade into Kampung Sungai Papan, Perak.
Recounting the sequence of events to the IoJM, Ms. Radu said that she was on assignment for The Diplomat when five cars carrying plainclothes policemen and some loggers arrived on site. They tore down the blockage and one of the officers who introduced himself as an inspector asked Ms. Radu to show her JPM-issued foreign media pass and an entry permit issued by the Perak Forestry department because she was on reserve land.
Ms. Radu said she didn’t have a permit because she didn’t know that she was on reserve land, and the officer arrested her.
She was detained at the Grik police station where her phone and passport confiscated. She said she was questioned by the station inspector, an officer from the Perak Forestry Department, and a Special Branch officer.
Ms. Radu told the IoJM that the police were polite during the questioning, and let her go after two hours. The Forestry officer said that she was being let go with a warning, and that if she came back again without a permit, she would be arrested.
Why were officers from three different agencies involved in questioning Ms. Radu, and why did it take two hours? The number of personnel and amount time it took seems disproportionate with the alleged offence.
Ms. Radu is now safely home in Kuala Lumpur, but the fact still remains that a journalist was stopped from doing her job. Her detention, even if temporary and based on a technicality, is still state interference in the media performing its work.
For the public to have a clear and transparent picture of current events, journalists both local and foreign, should have the ability to report events without fear or favour, especially without intervention by enforcement authorities.
Previously, two foreign journalists had also been arrested by the Kelantan state forestry department while covering the Pos Bihai protests in Gua Musang.
We acknowledge that it is indeed a requirement by the Forestry Department to obtain an entry permit before entering a forest reserve area and that it is to ensure visitors’ personal safety.
In this case, however, the authorities should clarify the reasons for her detention, and why it needed the say-so of Perak Mentri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu to instruct that Ms Radu should not be detained, as reported by MalaysiaKini.
The IoJM Executive Committee 2019-2020