Court denies barring the press from reporting on the trial of Zahid's daughter and son-in-law

Court denies barring the press from reporting on the trial of Zahid's daughter and son-in-law
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PUTRAJAYA (May 6): The court did not bar the media from reporting on the trial of former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's daughter and her husband for violating the Movement Control Order or MCO, according to the Federal Court chief registrar's office today.

“We refer to reports in the media and the statement by the National Union of Journalist (NUJ) about the media being barred from covering the trial of Nurul Hidayah and her husband Saiful Nizam Yusoff, who had been accused of violating the MCO before the magistrates court in Putrajaya," the chief registrar said in a statement.

“A check was done by this office and we reiterate that the media was not prohibited from covering the case that day. On that day, besides that case, there were other cases scheduled, which were attended by the prosecution officer, police and the public, and resulted in the open court being congested, with no social distancing.

“The court directed those in the public gallery to leave, to adhere to the Health Ministry's guidelines. The court also did not realise that the media was present to do coverage that day. Hence, there is no issue of the media being prohibited to make coverage. The court always ensures that access to justice applies to all parties, including the media,” it added.

On Tuesday, various media outlets reported that they were not allowed to cover Nurul Hidayah and Saiful Nizam's case. The couple was charged for not abiding by the MCO requirements of travelling out from one district — the district of Kajang, where their home is — to Putrajaya.

They were said to be travelling from the red-zoned Klang to the Department of Environment in Putrajaya at 9am on April 20. They pleaded guilty to the charge and were fined RM800 each.

Subsequently, the NUJ sought an explanation from the courts as to why the press were barred from covering the case. Its president Chin Sung Chew claimed there was no justification for magistrate Shah Wira Abdul Halim to issue the directive.

"We regret this action, especially for a case that was set for an open court hearing where the public has the right to attend the proceedings. We feel that this action is an attempt to prevent journalists the freedom to gather information, though it involves children of politicians or influential personalities.

"As long as journalists do not violate court rules, the directive can be deemed as an obstruction to the journalist's duty to obtain news," Chin said.

As to B Lisa Christina's dissatisfaction over the court's decision to hand down a lighter sentence on Nurul Hidayah and her husband, as opposed to the sentence she got for the same offence, the chief registrar's office said: "With regard to the sentence imposed by the Magistrates' Court on Mrs Lisa Christina a/p Balan, the High Court has exercised its review power and replaced the jail sentence with a fine."

Lisa took to social media recently to complain about the court's double standards, saying she herself was initially given a 30-day jail term for violating the MCO. The single mother said she had served eight of those 30 days before the High Court changed her sentence to a fine of RM1,000 — the maximum fine allowed for the offence.

Lisa was reportedly arrested by the police for violating the MCO after she went to buy a packet drink and stopped to have a chat with three loitering Indonesians.

As for Nurul Hidayah and her husband, their violation of the MCO came to light after Nurul Hidayah posted pictures of herself and her husband with Deputy Environment Minister Ahmad Masrizal Muhammad and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri on her Instagram account on April 20.