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APRIL 28 RALLY: Action should be taken to ensure journalists and policemen are not assaulted in future
I'M in a dilemma. What do you do when members of your family are assaulted and injured? Getting angry doesn't solve anything. Anger is a destructive force and in the end, it also destroys the angry person. Get even? That's an evanescent thrill that betrays childishness at best and insanity at worst.
Crying over the injustice? That is no solution, just an expression of emotion. Hoping it won't happen again is just hoping the problem will go away.
Lodge a police report? Yes, that might help, for the police are duty-bound to investigate and bring the culprits to book.
Here then lies the dilemma: What do you do when those who assaulted or roughed up your family members are policemen?
At least eight members of my family of journalists say they have been injured or roughed-up or threatened by police while engaged in the pursuit of their lawful duties. And this is not the first time it has happened.
They had been instructed by their employers to cover the Bersih 3.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur on April 28. They did just that.
However, my brother Mohd Radzi Abdul Razak, who works for The Sun, is now in hospital undergoing treatment for injuries to his ribs, jaw and neck.
Listen to Radzi's account: " I was sitting down (about 7pm) and having a cigarette near the waterfall at the Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman-Jalan Raja Laut junction when a group of seven to eight uniformed policemen suddenly charged towards me.
"One of them kicked me in the abdomen while the rest rained punches on me although I had identified myself as a reporter and showed them my media accreditation card worn around my neck."
Now, that's what hurts me the most. Radzi had identified himself, and several journalists at the scene had repeatedly shouted "Press" and "media", but the beating, says Radzi, did not stop.
Then there is my brother Muhammad Arif Kartono, a photographer with The Malay Mail. Despite showing his accreditation card, he says, he was "kicked in my face and on my legs, and stomped on my back."
What do I tell Arif , who asks: "Why can't they understand my job? If I can respect their job, why can't they respect mine?"
Others who claim police assaulted them or hurt them are photojournalist Koh Jun Lin of Malaysiakini, Makkal Osai photographer P.Malayandy, Channel News Asia videographer Kenny Lew, Al Jazeera correspondent Harry Fawcett, Guang Ming Daily photographer Huang An Jian, Merdeka Review's Chen Shaua Fui and Malaysian Insider's Lisa Ariffin.
My brother V. Anbalagan, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, asks whether the policemen acted the way they did because the journalists had digital evidence that could put the police force in a bad light. A legitimate question.
Surely the journalists can't all be lying? Do I then, assuming a philosophic stance, tell them to accept it as the world is, after all, agathokakological?
When a policeman was dragged out of a police patrol car -- which had earlier gone out of control and knocked into people -- and attacked by members of the public along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, it was my brother TV Al-Hijrah cameraman Mohd Azri Mohd Salleh who ran to the rescue. For that, he was bashed up by two members of the public.
I can't tell journalists to boycott the police, for in my 37 years as a journalist, I have met many hard-working and friendly policemen. Most policemen are decent men.
I'm in a dilemma. Police say 13 members of their family were injured that day. What do I tell them if they were to ask me: "We are paid by the public to maintain the peace. So, why attack us when we are merely performing our duty?"
I'm in a dilemma. How do I answer the jeremiad of the hundreds of members of the public who were hurt during the rally? What do I say if they were to ask: "How do you think we feel, being assaulted by the very people who are paid to protect us?"
What do I say when they ask: "Don't you think the police overreacted?"
Yes, it is a confusing, frustrating situation. Finger pointing will not solve the problem, but not taking action against policemen who assault journalists will embolden others to act similarly in future. And not punishing those who assault policemen will send a wrong signal. We can't have that.
That's why I'm glad to hear that police will investigate journalists' allegations. In fact, every allegation of brutality or abuse should be investigated. My only concern is that if police were to investigate alleged police brutality, there would be suspicion of bias.
Let an independent body conduct the inquiry. And let the main aim be the formulation of standard operating procedures to ensure no member of my family is ever set upon again in the performance of his duty. Now that's not asking for too much, is it?
But my dilemma does not end there. For, the policemen and the protesters are all part of my larger family -- the human family. There will always be differences, so why can't we learn to resolve issues without resorting to violence?
"I think journalism is a great way to do public service, to have an impact on your community." -- Bob Schieffer