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Media watchdogs the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) have slammed the decision by the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) to deny reporters from covering a public hearing on the council's draft local plan 2021-2035 this morning.
"It was reported that the city council barred media personnel from covering the public hearing by giving a reason that the invitation was not extended to the media but only for residents and other members of the public who lodged formal objections to the draft plan.
"This reasoning is not acceptable as this is a matter of public interest and, thus, the public at large must be kept informed," said CIJ executive director Wathshlah G Naidu in a statement today.
The public hearing was scheduled to begin at 9:15am at the Wisma MBSA banquet hall, Shah Alam.
Among the contentious matters to be discussed was the council's proposal to convert the Shah Alam Community Forest (Rimba Komuniti Shah Alam) into commercial development and a cemetery.CIJ executive director Wathshlah G Naidu
However, journalists who a concerned NGO had invited found themselves denied entry. When residents attempted to assist the media by proposing they enter the session as "representatives", MBSA officers issued the condition that the session must not be reported and journalists must surrender their recording devices.
"Preventing the media from reporting is tantamount to the council not being transparent in the disclosure of information that is of a matter of public interest.
"This clearly contravenes the Freedom of Information (State of Selangor) Enactment 2011, which is meant to 'enhance disclosure of information for the public interest, to provide to every individual a reasonable right of access to information made by every department of the state government and to promote transparency and accountability for each department in the state government", said Naidu.
She said it was vital for the MBSA to justify why it was restricting the disclosure of information related to a public hearing.
Meanwhile, Geramm said that it was upset that journalists were denied access.
"Geramm regrets another incident where the media was barred from covering an event for no apparent reason.
Geramm demanded an explanation why a meeting announced as a "public hearing" had to be held "privately" after Selangor executive councillor (local government, public transport and new village development) Ng Sze Han told Malaysiakini that the public hearing was a "closed-door" affair.
"More worryingly, the incident involved a state government that consists of a coalition of parties that promised freedom of the media when contesting elections," it added.Selangor exco (local government, public transport and new village development) Ng Sze Han