Vote for greater reforms for FOE

What do we expect from the 12th General Elections? CIJ is encouraged that there are candidates who have pledged to table the Freedom of Information Bill if elected. But we note with concern the incident where journalists were harassed and where media reports have been biased against the non-Barisan Nasional parties; but we are encouraged by the sharing of information by civil society initiatives.

 


 

7 March 2008

 

Malaysians go to vote tomorrow to choose their representatives once again. So far 16 candidates in the 12th General Elections have committed to being proactive representatives, if elected, by tabling Private Member's Bills either in the State Legislative Assemblies or the Parliament. Those committed include candidates from the DAP, PAS, Parti Sosialis Malaysia and Parti Keadilan Rakyat. Among the bills that are ready for tabling include the Freedom of Information law that seeks to replace the draconian Official Secrets Act, which allows the government to keep information on public interest issues, secret.

CIJ records its disappointment over the incident in Perlis last week where two reporters were physically harmed by a group of people while covering a political ceramah. The state BN leaders have issued apologies over the incident, but we call on the police to conduct thorough investigation and bring the wrong-doers to book. Journalists must be able to work without fear or favour.

The Tamil press continues to be the target of the MIC as its leaders have condemned the newspapers for reporting "lies", in reference to coverage in favour of the opposition. We are concerned that the parties in the ruling coalition feel they can use legal and political instruments to threaten and stifle the media. As it stands, one of the Tamil-language newspapers, Makkal Osai, has not received its annual permit for 2008.

We regret that the mainstream press has not been able to fulfil its role to provide critical information to voters. It continues to highlight the positive side of Barisan Nasional and provide more space for the BN to criticise the opposition and very little room for the latter to state its position. In the last week leading to polling day, the number of stories that are pro-Barisan Nasional have gone up and with the inclusion of opinion pieces that are hard hitting against the opposition.

We look forward to a Parliament that will be more progressive and take necessary steps to introduce reforms in freedom of expression, media freedom and right to information.

We applaud the work done by different groups in raising awareness among voters on human rights, providing critical analysis on issues and watching the electoral process on the voters' behalf. We wish everyone a good polling day and remember VOTE WISELY.

Sites to visit if you haven't already:

a. Media Monitors' Blog - http://www.aliran.com/elections

b. Mak Bedah and the Women's Candidacy Initiative 2 - http://www.wci2.org/

c. Voter Education by Pusat Komas – http://komas.org/

d. People's Parliament - http://harismibrahim.wordpress.com/

e. Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, Bersih - http://bersih.org/

Issued by Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Executive Director, Centre for Independent Journalism.