Free and Fair Media Must Be Allowed to Flourish — Bersih

Free and Fair Media Must Be Allowed to Flourish — Bersih

KUALA LUMPUR — The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) calls on the government of PM Anwar Ibrahim to honour his pledge, as laid out in his coalition’s manifestos, to defend free speech and protect media freedom.

This comes after the website was blocked from public access.

PH’s election manifestos for GE14 and GE15 promised media freedom and repeal of draconian provisions in Acts that could be abused to restrict free speech such as the Sedition Act 1948, Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, and Printing Press and Publications Act 1984, said in a press release.

Should there be any concerns about the content of a media organisation, there should be a transparent process with a show cause letter and appeal opportunity before any blocking, suggested Bersih.

The Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) on Human Rights, Elections and Institutional Reforms should organise hearings to seek public input on the amending of the Communications and Multimedia Act to democraticise the operation of the Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

While some Malaysians may support such crackdown in the fear of 3R controversies, we like to remind both the government and all stakeholders that extremism can only be curbed with legitimate, targeted and fair measures on one hand and encouragement of healthy and constructive debates on the other.

If the crackdown is deemed driven by partisan calculation, the suppressed voices will only grow stronger in under-currents, posing a greater danger to inclusion and stability.

A key cornerstone of democracy is free and fair access to public media by all political parties but sadly Malaysia has never witnessed such fair play during our elections.

In the last few days before polling day for the six state elections, we hope that stations like Bernama and RTM would give free airtime for all coalition leaders at state-level to talk about their manifestos, equitable media coverage and host political debates between the coalitions and parties.

In this day and age of social media accessibility, it is futile for any government to try and restrict its opponents.

Instead, the government of the day ( Madani government ) should lead the way to promote open and public discourses on government-owned media so that Malaysians can judge for themselves the merits of competing views and ideologies.

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