Thursday, 26 July 2012

our police personnel had “stopped and manhandled” Merdeka Review assistant editor Chen Shaua Fui during the Bersih 3.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur on April 28.

The rally had ended at the time and she was walking towards Dataran Maybank when she saw police personnel beating up protesters who were eating at a roadside stall.
NONEShe was trying to photograph this when the police picked on her, Chen testified at the inquiry into violence at the rally, conducted by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

Chen said she showed the police her official media tag issued by the Information Department, but they ignored it.

After hearing her testimony, panel head and Suhakam vice-chairperson Khaw Lake Tee commented: "It is very visible that you are reporter because you are holding a camera and wearing a media tag."

Chen, the first among media personnel covering the rally for free and fair elections to testify, said on that day she journeyed to Dataran Merdeka with the Himpunan Hijau group from Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC).

Ambiga told crowd to disperse 

She witnessed Bersih leader Ambiga Sreenevasan instructing the crowd gathered at the sides of the historic square to disperse, since Bersih 3.0 had achieved its cause.

NONEAfter reporting on the chaos that ensued in Dataran Merdeka following the breach of the barbed wire barricades about 2.30pm, Chen was making her way to Dataran Maybank, about 7pm.

While walking up Jalan Tun Perak, she witnessed police personnel were "dragging" away people who were eating at a roadside hawker stall at the intersection leading to Jalan Hang Lekiu.

"I wanted to take pictures, but was warned by an officer who pointed at me and told me to put the camera away.

"I did put it away and decided to walk away from there. Then I heard the police calling me and I stayed on, was afraid they would commit more human rights violations,” Chen added.

At that moment, she said, about 10 police officers closed in on a man, who was arrested at the stall, and forcefully took off his T-shirt and bashed him up.

Pictures blurred because hands were shaking

Although she took photographs of the incident, the pictures were blurred as her hands were shaking.

"That’s when they grabbed me," said Chen, who was the only journalist at the location.

One officer grabbed her right wrist, another grabbed her left wrist and another, from the back, tried to snatch her backpack.

"I was holding my camera in my right hand and mobile phone in my left hand. They tried to tug away my camera. I asked if I was being arrested but they did not respond.

NONE"Another officer appeared in front of me and looked at my media tag hanging from my neck, pulled it off and kicked it away.

"I can't recall everything he said except that 'a police officer is dead'.

"At that moment, I was afraid they would arrest me as a protester because they threw my media identity card. But then I managed to struggle away, but I was not sure that I was able to because they did not want to let me go," Chen said.

The incident happened “in the blink of an eye” and so she was not able to see their names or their identification numbers.

She left the scene as quickly as possible because one of the officers warned her that he would arrest her if he saw her again.

The panel asked Chen if the incident interrupted her work and if it had affected her "spirit" and her response was: "I thought by wearing a press tag I will be shielded by the authorities from any harm. It was really quite scary.

"We always believe, we are there to carry out our duties, not to provoke anyone. Why were we treated in that way?"

Panel member Detta Samen asked Chen, who has had more than 10 years of experience in the field, why police would stop reporters from taking photographs, and she said “it was to stop me from taking pictures of them arresting and beating people”.

Khaw asked if she had committed a crime in attending and covering the rally, to which Chen said, "if there was any crime committed, my fearful face would have been it".

"If fear is a crime, then you would have been a criminal..." replied Khaw.

Chen added that the "chaos" caused by the firing of tear gas and water cannons would not have occurred if the police and the Bersih organisers had worked out a plan for the rally.

The inquiry resumes tomorrow with testimonies from more members of the media, including Malaysiakini's photojournalist Koh Jun Lin and theSun journalist Radzi Razak.

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