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Two news photographers attacked by political party supporters

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Two news photographers were reportedly beaten by supporters of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), or People's Justice Party, on 16 August 2008.

According to SEAPA partner the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Mohamad Sairien Mohamad Nafiz, a photographer with the "New Straits Times Press" (NSTP) newspaper, was attacked by approximately 20 PKR supporters when they saw him taking pictures of them harassing a passing vehicle belonging to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition party.

The same group of PKR supporters also assaulted a French photojournalist, Halim Berbar from HBL Press News Agency, who witnessed the incident and went to Mohamad Sairien's rescue.

CIJ reported that the incident drew responses from the government's senior leadership, including Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Both the BN and PKR are now accusing each other as being responsible for the incident.

In a statement, CIJ said: "The galvanization of the government's top leadership over the attack of a photographer is a rare occasion. The last time it happened was during the 12th general elections in March when former Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of the Perlis Shahidan Kasim party, and the former Home Affair Minister Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, voiced concern when two 'Malay' daily photographers were injured by a United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) supporter. This is unlike the overwhelming silence in 2007, when two Tamil press photographers were allegedly abused by an official of the BN component party, MIC; another beaten into a coma after receiving death threats for writing critically against MIC; and a Guang Ming daily photographer assaulted by an UMNO member when covering an opposition politician, Tan Kok Wai."

However, CIJ Executive Director Gayathry Venkiteswaran called on both political parties to stop the blame game and instead to rein in their supporters.

"CIJ calls on all political parties to censure their members and supporters who inflict harm on journalists and photographers, and to enforce greater respect for media workers. All cases of attacks against media workers must be properly investigated and the wrongdoers brought to justice. The safety of journalists and photographers while performing their duties is of paramount importance and cannot be compromised by the acts of irresponsible, emotional and aggressive individuals," CIJ said in a statement.

The Centre for Independent Journalism ( http://cijmalaysia.org ) is a SEAPA partner based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free, where all people enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek, and impart information.

For further information on the violent assault of the Tamil journalist, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/87660

For further information on the case involving a Guang Ming journalist, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/87790

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