A civil society coalition is demanding fair access to the mainstream media for all political parties and a Najib-Anwar debate so that voters can make an informed choice. Christopher Chong reports.
It is no secret that the mainstream media in Malaysia have been shackled by the state through various media laws. What is in contradiction here is that Malaysia claims itself to be a democracy and we have periodic elections.
Yet, missing in this equation are media that are free to offer balanced reporting on both sides of the political divide. What we have today, unless you been vacationing in Mars, are countless pro-BN advertisements and news coverage in the mainstream media. Shouldn’t the other side have an equal amount of airtime and print space as well?
The joke here is our Minister for Information, Communication and Culture said (paraphrasing here), “But we did offer air time for the opposition … just 10 minutes only.” Huh? As if to add insult to injury, he added, “It’s all the time that PR deserve.”
Listen Mr. Minister, in a democracy, balanced media coverage is important for voters. It tells us what the policy planks that each party is offering are so that we can make an informed decision when we vote.
As a consequence, a coalition of NGOs have come together to demand fair access to the mainstream media for all political parties. Further, they are also demanding that Najib and Anwar, as leaders of the opposing coalitions, have a debate so that we, the rakyat, can decide who has the better policy and vision for the nation.
You can view the full text and sign an online petition here.
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Below are the demands in brief:
We, the undersigned citizens of Malaysia, call upon the Barisan Nasional caretaker government to immediately meet our following demands:
- Ensure that all political parties have free and fair access to state-owned media such as RTM and Bernama. The opposition must be given sufficient air time and coverage to present their policies and due opportunity to rebut criticisms.
- Ensure that a series of at least 12 televised debates on key policy areas affecting the people, including democratic rights, economic reforms, labour and human capital, race-based politics, public welfare, a civil service overhaul, free education, culture and religion, transportation reforms, foreign policy, Sarawak and Sabah issues. In addition, special sessions need to be conducted for the smaller political parties.
- Give privately owned media the assurance that there shall be no retaliation against those that give equal coverage to all contesting political parties.
Jointly initiated by :
- Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
- Civil Rights Committee of KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
- Kumpulan Aktivis Media Independen (KAMI
- Kumpulan Kartunis Independen
- Malaysians for Beng Hock (M4BH)
- Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
- Writers’ Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
Dr Christopher Chong is an Aliran member. He teaches politics in a private university in KL.