BARRED: Two journalists covering a story told by DAP councillor they were not welcome
GEORGE TOWN: THE DAP-led Penang government has issued a "circular" barring its councillors from talking to reporters from the New Straits Times and Utusan Malaysia.
Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) councillor Ong Ah Teong made this shocking disclosure yesterday.
The local media was told of the latest in a series of anti-press freedom instructions during an outing with the authorities to issue a "close-shop" notice to a restaurant in Batu Feringghi on Thursday.
At 11am, the press followed Northeast district Health Department and MPPP officials to a nasi kandar outlet.
There, the officials issued a summons and ordered the eatery to be closed because of cleanliness concerns.
Ong then gathered the media at a nearby hotel car park after leaving the restaurant.
As they arrived, Ong announced he would not begin his press conference as reporters from the NST and Utusan Malaysia were present.
"I am sorry. I see Utusan and NST reporters here, so I cannot begin," said Ong, who is also a personal aide of Datuk Keramat state assemblyman Jagdeep Singh Deo.
The two reporters subsequently left.
Earlier in the day, when the NST journalist had approached and greeted Ong with a handshake, the latter rudely refused to extend his hand.
When queried, Ong said he had been told not to layan (entertain) any NST or Utusan reporters.
"Sorry, I cannot entertain reporter from the NST or Utusan... it is in the pekeliling (circular)."
This NST reporter Predeep Nambiar said Ong's response came as a shock to him.
"I have never met him before. I only wanted to introduce myself as a matter of courtesy.
"I was taken aback by his attitude," said Nambiar, adding that the councillor subsequently shook his hand after being told that he merely wished to greet him.
Nambiar said did not expect such crude manners from a councillor.
Members of the Penang press fraternity said they were disheartened over the latest development as it was akin to obstructing a journalist's duty.
Ong's further claimed that he had not invited the NST or Utusan Malaysia to cover yesterday's event and questioned their presence.
The NST has been banned from covering official or private functions which Lim attends as a guest.
Berita Harian, a sister paper of the Media Prima group, also suffers the same fate.