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Parliament reporters hit out at working conditions

June 17, 2012
Parliament reporters hit out at working conditions
3:16PM Jun 16, 2012

It has been eight months since the temporary Parliament building was opened for us, and media personnel covering parliamentary proceedings have had quite enough.

Daily during the proceedings, over 40 reporters, photographers and video crew are crammed into a portion of the temporary lobby smaller than a badminton court.

Reporters sit cross-legged on the floor with their laptops among tangles of wires while early birds get to squeeze onto the few couches as they follow members of parliament debate in the Dewan Rakyat through a live telecast.

parliament journalists press room 2Some are even forced to sit on tables, while others had taken upon themselves to set up fold-able beach chairs in front of the single television screening the live telecast.

However, if a press conference is called the volume of the television has to be turned down, forcing those following debates to huddle around the TV set.

“It’s very aging, I mean I feel that my body is aging (in this condition). We always have to walk carefully or we’ll trip (on wires or equipment). It’s not a suitable environment for journalists to produce good work.

“Parliament is where checks and balances of government policy (happen) and we’ll be able to produce better quality work in a more comfortable environment,” said Merdeka Review journalist Chen Shaua Fui.

Malaysiakini reporter Lee Way Loon, who was sitting on the floor, found himself falling straight into another reporter’s laptop when he tried to get up to speak to an MP recently.

“I saw other reporters approaching (the MP) so I got up, but my leg was numb and I fell.

“Thankfully the laptop was not broken or else I would have to give compensation,” he said, laughing over the incident.

dap dompok and sexist remarks pc 170507 fong poh kuanOn a more serious note, however, Lee said that reporters had last year complained to both opposition and BN MPs over the matter and found sympathy from DAP’s Batu Gajah MP Fong Poh Kuan (left).

“She informed (minister in charge of parliamentary affairs) Nazri Abdul Aziz about it and he asked us to write a letter, but I think no one did.

“Fong also suggested that we move to the upper floors which has more space but this was not taken up,” he said.

The current position, while crammed, provides better access to the MPs walking in and out of the Dewan Rakyat.

A lesson in patience

TV Selangor reporter Muhammad Syafiq Redzuan concurred, adding that he hopes that media personnel will not have to work “in this disaster area” for much longer.

“I’d like to thank the government for teaching us patience,” he quipped.

The temporary building, which is just behind the main Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur was built as an alternative, while renovation and maintenance work commences in the main building.

The temporary building was previously a multipurpose hall upgraded for its transitory purpose for a sum of RM28 million.

parliament journalists press room 3The main building,which also includes a media room and a sprawling lobby, is more than 50 years old and suffers from bad leaks.

Works Minister Shaziman Mansor had visited the media area at the temporary building last October and took note of the complaints, and since then six three-seater sofas have been palced there instead of two.

“If it’s uncomfortable for press conferences to be held here, maybe they can be held outside or we can ask ministers to give them at the old lobby,” he had suggested then.

Malaysiakini reporter Hazlan Zakaria notes that reporters covering the parliamentary proceedings are essentially trying to “make what politicians say understandable to the public”.

“It is our hope that the powers that be would listen and make sure we can continue to look good for the public or else suffer the consequences of being unable to be understood by the people they are supposed to serve.”

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