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Journalists assaulted while covering rally

(CIJ/IFEX) - On 26 February 2012, two journalists were injured while covering a public protest against the construction of a rare-earth metals plant in the state of Pahang, when it turned unruly.

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is disappointed that the police were unable to ensure security for protesters and journalists who were present at the Himpunan Hijau 2.0 solidarity rally held in Penang yesterday.

The Penang gathering at the Speakers' Square, held in support of the anti-Lynas protest in Kuantan, Pahang on the same day, was reportedly peaceful until an opposing group arrived and tried to silence and intimidate those already gathered, including the chief minister. In the resulting fracas, two journalists were injured. According to news reports, journalists Adam Chew and Lee Hong Chun, with local Chinese daily "Kwong Wah Jit Poh", were hit on the head with helmets; Chew required eight stitches on his finger, which was hurt when he tried to deflect the blow with his hand, while Lee suffered bruises on his head.

It is unfortunate that two journalists were caught in the commotion in Penang and were hurt when similar protests held in other locations - Kuantan, Bukit Merah, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Sibu, Miri, Keluang, and Kuala Lumpur - went smoothly.

The public is counting on law enforcers and public authorities to carry out their duty neutrally to protect the rights of the people, including the right to peaceful assembly. In the many YouTube videos which captured the fracas, there was no law enforcer in sight. CIJ urges the authorities to investigate the fight in Penang and bring to book the perpetrators to show that violence will not be tolerated. CIJ calls on the police to work towards ensuring that the people are able to exercise their right to assemble peacefully in accordance with the moderate and mature democracy that we aspire to be.

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