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Free and fair media coverage is a must for a more democratic Malaysia

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The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) asserts the need for free and fair media coverage of all sides of the political divide as the nation collectively embraces a new dawn and a new Malaysia.

Following the fall of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government after holding power for 61 years since independence in 1957, media and broadcasting organisations are now able to cover events organised by the current government and former opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), which the mainstream media had shunned before.

But it is important that the media should start a new chapter by giving equal media coverage to all political parties and abandon the old habits of providing one-sided stories in favour of the ruling parties as under the Barisan Nasional era.

Taxpayer-funded state media such as radio and television stations of RTM should no longer serve the government of the day but the taxpayers and provide equal media coverage to all sides for taxpayers to make informed decisions.

The PH government promised (the 27th promise in its manifesto) to abolish draconian laws include the Sedition Act 1948 and the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and to remove draconian clauses in the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998. In addition, PH leaders also repeatedly announced that they would abolish the recently enacted Anti-Fake News Act 2018.

We call for these laws to be repealed or reviewed immediately in line with human rights and press freedom in the first session of Parliament. We further urge the PH government to accord press freedom with constitutional protection.

READ MORE:  Let media freedom thrive in Parliament

Bersih 2.0 has consistently demanded free and fair media coverage, which also constitutes access to the media, since the Bersih 2 rally in 2011 – a persistent demand in our list of electoral reforms.

Bersih 2.0 reminds the media that they play a uniquely important role in ensuring that the government is accountable to the voters and citizens of the country and in carrying feedback and information from the grassroots to the top leaders of the nation.

Free and fair media coverage may be one step forward for the media but it is a giant step forward for democracy.

Bersih 2.0 steering committee

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