Several journalist associations today expressed regret over the camera-seizing incident involving Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaludin.
Mohammad Nizar was reported to have forced an Utusan Malaysia photographer to hand over his camera and deleted all images taken during the delivery of a letter of demand from a law firm to him yesterday.
Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) chairman Datuk Azman Ujang said the action was not line with the freedom of the press as practiced in the country.
He said, "This is the first time that we heard of such incident involving a Menteri Besar in this country. As a public figure, the menteri besar should have an open attitude towards the media."
Azman said that Mohammad Nizar should also understand the duties and roles of the media.
He said that as a Pas assembly member holding a post in a Pakatan Rakyat-ruled state, Mohammad Nizar could learn a thing or two from Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat who was gracious in his dealings with the press.
"Nik Aziz's attitude in dealing with the media should be emulated by other assembly members... don't get easily worked up," he said.
Mohammad Nizar was reportedly prevented Mohd Najib Mohd Nor from recording the delivery of the letter of demand from a representative of the legal firm, Shafee & Co, to him.
Besides seizing the camera, Mohammad Nizar had also instructed the photographer to erase all pictures taken on the delivery of the letter of demand.
National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Norila Md Daud echoed Azman's sentiment, saying she was shocked that a prominent leader would go as far as stopping the media from discharging their duties.
"The Perak Menteri Besar should lead by example by allowing the press to carry out their duties," she said, adding that she had advised the photographer to lodged a police report.
She said that state governments, whether under Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat, should adopt an open attitude towards the media.
"A photographer on official assignment should not be stopped from carrying out his or her duties," she said.
National Press Club president Mokhtar Hussain said as the chief executive of the state government, Mohammad Nizar should reach out and foster good relations with the media.
"We would like to encourage the Perak state government to reach out to the media and organise more joint programmes to strengthen relations with the press," he said.
In IPOH, the Perak Media Sports and Welfare Club expressed regret over the incident.
"The photographer has a media pass issued by the state government. He was merely doing the job assigned to him," club president Samat Majid said.
What the MB said:
In response to the reactions, Mohammad Nizar said he merely asked for the camera and not seizing it as reported.
He also claimed that the legal firm was in cahoots with the media.
"I was having a meal, then he (the legal firm's representative) came. I asked him 'who are you?' but he did not answer.
"How was it possible that the cameraman was present when the notice was served? So I said, 'give me your camera'," he told a news conference at the Perak state legislative assembly building.