The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) today questioned a journalist over a picture she had taken during the Bersih 2.0 rally.But according to Lawyers For Liberty (LFL) coordinator, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, the officials had behaved like thugs in their intimidation and harassment of both her and her client.Fadiah had accompanied her client, Yusriah Yusof, a photographer with opposition mouthpiece Suara Keadilan, to the MCMC headquarters earlier this afternoon.
Yusriah was being questioned over her picture of Anwar Ibrahim’s bodyguard, Fayyadh Afiq Albakqry, taken after he was hit in the face with a tear gas canister while shielding Anwar.
The picture of his bloodied face were among the many circulated online in the aftermath of the rally as evidence of police brutality.
When the investigating officer (IO) met them at the entrance, Fadiah introduced herself and said that she was accompanying her client into the investigation room. The IO denied her entry and an argument ensued.
“He said that lawyers were not allowed to be present during the questioning,” she told FMT. “I told him that under the Federal Constitution my client had the right to have her lawyer present and asked him what his basis was in disallowing that right.”
“I even asked him why she was being questioned and whether there was a report made against her. The IO said of course there is a report but he wasn’t going to divulge it to me.”
When Fadiah pointed out that even the police released reports to lawyers, the IO apparently shot back, “That is the police, we are MCMC.”
He, however, eventually reluctantly allowed Fadiah into the investigation room but then told her that he wanted to take her statement too.
“I refused and told him that I am merely accompanying my client and I’m not the party under investigation,” she said. “We continued arguing until he shouted ‘you’re a Malay, right? you’re a Muslim, right?… stop asking questions!’”
“I told him not to bring religion into this and to respect the law. He shouted back that if I wanted to talk about the law then I should go to the court because this was his office and he didn’t want to talk about it.”
Before a stunned Fadiah could respond, two more officers entered the room and shouted to her to leave. While she argued with them, the IO began taking Yusriah’s statement, disregarding the photographer’s obvious distress.
“I turned my back on the two and focus on my client,” Fadiah said. “These men were in the baju Melayu complete with the sampin and they were behaving like thugs. They were talking like the law didn’t apply to them.”
“I am shocked by MCMC’s arrogance and ignorance. Even when they called my client in for questioning they never sent her an official notice. Just a casual phone call.”
The two officers threatened to lodge a police report against her, but when she she asked for their names in return, they replied that she had no right to know as she was in their office.
Fadiah added that the line of questioning was to determine the authenticity of the picture and if copies had been distributed to other publications.
“It was obvious that they want to send out a warning that the public and journalists who take and distribute such pictures will be hauled in for quesitioning,” she said.
“It is pure harassment of journalists, particularly my client because they couldn’t even tell her the basis of the investigation or what law she had breached.”
Yusriah is the first journalist to be questioned over this picture. The Suara Keadilan editor is expected to be called in next as are the other media that have published the image.