KUALA LUMPUR: About 80 people protested against the sacking of Chou Z Lam, TV2's producer of "Galeri Mandarin Nasional", at RTM Angkasapuri this morning.

Chou was sacked after he went public after his documentary about the impact of Bakun Dam on the indigenous people was axed.

He alleged that his superior in RTM told him that the documentary, if it had been aired, “would have had a negative impact on the (just-concluded) Sibu by-election”.

About 50 people from the Rawang New Village, where an issue on high-tension cables which was also one of Chou's programmes that was pulled out, arrived by bus at 11am.

Many, wearing black masks, were holding up banners which said, "No political interference! Bebaskan media! (free the media)", "RTM/BN tindas rakyat" and "No self-censorship".

The organisers, from the 528 Media Action Group, Writers Alliance for Media Independence and Centre for Independent Journalism were confronted by the police a few minutes later.

Brickfields deputy police chief Supt Azri Abdul Rahman, who headed a team of about 30 policemen, faced the group and told them that the police were here just to "facilitate".

However, when the organisers attempted to organise the crowd using a hailer, Azri shouted: "Do not use the hailer. We can consider that as obstructing the police."

"You want to demonstrate, you need a permit. Did you apply for a permit? Do you understand the law?" he asked. The protester then attempted to unfurl a banner. Azri shouted at them: "Give it to me. Give me that banner. I don't care who owns it.'' He immediately confiscated the item.

They then demanded to see (RTM) director-general Ibrahim Yahya to hand over a memorandum.

Special officer to the director-general Hafizal Hamad and RTM media adviser Dahlan Mahmor turned up to meet the protesters and receive the memorandum.

RTM's action violates basic rights

528 Media Action Group coordinator Ng Yap Hwa said the protest was a show of strength in support of Chou and against RTM's censorship of his documentaries.

"Chou's last day of work was May 13 even though his contract expires in January 2011. RTM's action has violated the rights of Malaysians on three counts," said Ng.

"First is the indigenous peoples' and Rawang villagers' right to expression through Chou's documentary, the public's right to information about issues of national interest and thirdly, it infringes on media freedom and on the journalists' right to work freely and independently.

"Removing Chou from employment, apparently for his expose, is a form of punishment against a journalist who is doing his job," he added.

"RTM is funded by taxpayers. We deserve the right to know the truth with regard to Bakun Dam and why the RTM producer was sacked," said Ng.

Rawang assemblywoman Gan Pei Nee told FMT that she was disappointed that Ibrahim "refused" to turn up to meet the protesters.

"We are giving RTM a week to respond to us or we would continue our protests at other areas to raise awareness of this issue, " said Gan.

The protesters dispersed after about 20 minutes on the advice of the police.

In a tweet, Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo said that he is prepared to offer legal assistance to Chou, if need be.


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