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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26, 2015:

Prominent and seasoned journalists have called on Umno to keep the annual General Assembly, from Dec 8-12, open to the media in the wake of a proposed restriction on access to the proceedings this year.

Former Media Prima Berhad corporate social responsibility group adviser Datuk Ahmad A. Talib said this was because Umno had always been open where coverage of its annual assembly was concerned.

He said the proposal was unbecoming of the party as Umno was perhaps the most open among all political parties in this country.

“To stop or even to restrict media access to the assembly is not the best way forward where media management and engagement are concerned.

“I won’t describe it as absurd, but it’s quite close to that.

“Is Umno that fearful of media spinning? Which media? Which stories are seen as spun stories?

“Even Umno cyber warriors or cyber champions are puzzled, to say the least, about this never-before ruling,” he told The Rakyat Post when contacted last night.

Earlier today, Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor had told reporters at the Parliament lobby that there would be no media coverage of the debates at the 2015 Umno General Assembly.

Instead, said Tengku Adnan, two party vice-presidents, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, would hold a press conference to discuss what had happened at the assembly.

However, Tengku Adnan later backtracked on the announcement, saying that the matter was still under discussion and no decision had been made though various media outlets reported him as saying earlier that the decision was made to stop them from “spinning” stories.

“I hope the Umno secretary-general can clarify this. He’s not new to media engagement.

“If this is indeed so, then there must be something not right in all of this,.” Ahmad said.

Blogger Datuk Ahirudin Attan, who goes by the moniker Rocky Bru, also echoed Ahmad’s sentiment, saying the proposed restriction would be a regressive move by the party.

“I don’t think they should go back to the stone age and try to restrict coverage.

“If they want to restrict admission, then it is fine, but not the telecast of proceedings, whether live or delayed.

“They must not try to restrict access on what’s happening in there because the more you try to hide or to restrict, the more you lose,” the former Malay Mail chief editor said.

Ahirudin said the restriction would not only bar the media’s access to Umno, but in turn the party’s access to the publications and broadcasters, and its access to the wider audience.

“If it was open before, it should be kept open now.”

On the issue of the party not issuing access passes to certain online media organisations, Ahirudin said it was the party’s right to do so.

“If they say Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider or Malaysian Chronicle cannot have access, it’s their right to bar these organisations,

“But then again, in this day and age, they should be transparent. What’s wrong with telling us why organisations are barred?

“We all know that some news portals are ‘working’ for the opposition.

“If you do not want them to be there because they are basically working for the opposition and making your party look bad, then I think it’s fair that you bar them and nobody would be angry.”

He said this was why it was important for the party to explain the reasons behind its decisions.

“When they do spin something or report half-truths about you, or even defame you, people like Tengku Adnan should not just be talking and threatening to sue.

“The thing is that these people say they would want to sue but don’t sue and that’s part of the problem, too.”

He said the media no longer took these threats seriously any more.

Ahirudin also said this was why Umno needed to be firm with its decisions and threats.

“If they want to do it (sue), they can, but then explain to us and to the people why they are doing it.”

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