The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) calls on all broadcast media organisations, in particular, state-owned RTM, Media Prima and Astro, as well as all print and online news portals, to provide fair and balance media coverage for all political parties and independent candidates in the upcoming 15th General Election (GE15). The caretaker government of PM Ismail Sabri Yaakob should take the lead and instruct RTM to play their role as the nation’s broadcaster to serve all Malaysians.
BERSIH reminds all media organisations that as the fourth estate of democracy, they play a vital role to keep democracy alive. They are the communicators of information that could influence the choices of the 21.1 million Malaysians who are eligible to vote in GE15 on 19 November. They have a responsibility to not only communicate accurate information but to provide fair access to all contestants in this election.
BERSIH proposes three types of programming for TV and radio broadcasters, namely…
- Party Political Broadcast – where all political parties are given airtime to state their election manifestos, either equally or in accordance with the number of seats they are contesting, with the major parties given more time but all parties and independent candidates are also allotted time.
- Prime Minister-candidates Debate – while this would be novel in Malaysian politics, debate is nothing new in our society, where schools and universities have long organised them and it is part of the process of lawmaking in Parliament. An aspirant to be a PM must show to Malaysians that he/she has the ability to robustly debate important policy issues and address matters of importance.
- Multiparty Dialogue/Talk shows – where representatives from different parties and independents can sit together to discuss important issues in a civil manner.
Such initiatives are not only informative to the voting public but also foster a new culture of civility among politicians. Parties would also be forced to field better qualified candidates who can articulate and represent their parties better.
For RTM and other state-owned broadcasters to provide equitable airtime for political parties, it would be a form of indirect public funding for parties, an integral element of political financing reform that is needed for this country.
Let GE15 be defined as the election that paved the path to greater democratic reforms by being the first where all political parties and independents have equitable access to the mass media.
Statement issued by:
The Steering Committee of BERSIH