Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at the Perak DAP State Dinner to commemorate the second anniversary of the release of Lim Kit Siang from detention held at St. John’s Ambulance Hall in Ipoh on Sunday, 8th Oct. 1972 at 8 p.m.
Call on Government to democratise and liberalise its mass media policy to allow press freedom and fair television and radio service
For the past month for almost every night, Television Malaysia telecasts the same programmes of Bahasa Malaysia news and Peristiwa (television news-magazine) over both channels at the same time.
This means that for 37 minutes every night, a television viewer is offered the same fare over both channels, and he has no escape whatsoever from the blatant government propaganda in the Peristiwa programme. Whether he turns on the first or second channel, he will see the same Minister planting a tree, or cutting a ribbon. What makes matters worse is that this is done during prime television time between 8.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m., causing the maximum frustration to the television viewers. The worst victim is the Chinese film programme on Monday nights, which is interrupted by no less than three other programmes – apart from the television advertisement interruptions.
This television policy of the Alliance government is firstly the admission of failure of the blatant propaganda television programmes to draw viewers, in particular Peristiwa, which is dedicated to the glorification of the Alliance Ministers and leaders. It is clear that if the Peristiwa programme of propagandising the so-called achievements of the Alliance Ministers are successful, then there is no need to make this programme compulsory – which they did by commandeering both channel to transmit it at the same time every night.
Secondary, such a television policy is further proof of the intolerant, illiberal and undemocratic attitude of the Alliance government.
It would not allow the Malaysian television viewers freedom of choice. They are given no alternative but to watch and see Alliance propaganda films during prime television time.
This marks the growing information and thought-control policy of the Alliance government.
Television Malaysia is a national service, and not an Alliance property, and should exist to cater to the educational informational and entertainment needs of the 11 million Malaysians and not be the instrument for the propagation of Alliance policies and party line.
In the connection, I shudder to think what will be the position should we be advanced enough to have five or six channels. Are the Malaysian viewers, in such a stage, to see the same government propaganda film of say, Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie planting a tree and giving a speech whether on the first, second, third, fourth or fifth channel?
This is clearly an abuse and misuse of public mass communications agencies by the Government, which has put its party interest above national public interests.
The DAP calls on the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie, to stop forcing Alliance propaganda programmes down the throat of the television viewers. He should issue a directive that no programme should be transmitted over both television channels at the same time.
For this not only hogs valuable television time, it is a most absurd arrangement. If the government really wants to ram the same propaganda programme down the throat of the viewers, and give them no other choice of a television programme, then it might for that 37 minutes close down one channel. This will have the same effect, and save money.
Furthermore, the telecast of the Chinese film should not be interrupted by three other programmes. I do not believe that it is beyond the ingenuity of the television programmers to arrange it in such a way that the film is telecast without a single interruption. The question is whether the television programmers want to do it or not.
The government’s growingly illiberal, undemocratic practice in the control of information processes can also be seen in other areas, apart from over television and radio.
Bernama, the government news agency, is another good example. Internally, it is no more than the mouthpiece of the Alliance government. It transmits government propaganda, and conforms to the government policy of denigrating and discrimination against opposition news and activities – in direct violation of the Charter of Parliament which set up the Bernama as an independent national news agency.
Thus, during the recent government television, radio and news campaign to try to make the public believe that the DAP has disintegrated and broken up, the Bernama went to the extent of digging up the story of a resignation by one of our branch committee members in Pahang more than a year ago, and running it as a new story. The original resignation more than a year ago was carried in the local press, and the re-run resignation story was of course given prominence in the Bername and local press, as the people must have forgotten about the resignation of a little-know branch official.
There are reports that the Bernama not only wants to control internal news, it also wants to control foreign news coming into the country, so that a day will come when Malaysian can only can read of foreign news after they had been processed and treated by the Bernama and Alliance publicists.
Thus, talks are afoot between Bernama and the foreign news agencies for Bernama to be the sole distributor of foreign news of the international agencies.
STRAITS TIMES PRESS
Finally, I want tonight to say a few words about the New Straits Times Press.
We will remember that at the last UMNO General Assembly, there was considerable pressure for the Malaysianisation of the Straits Times capital.
No Malaysian will oppose the Malaysianisation of the Straits Times capital, as Straits Times, as the national newspaper in Malaysia, has great influence over the sensitive field of opinion making and information dissemination.
We understand that the Malaysian operations of the Straits Times Group, now known as New Straits Times Press, have been sold to a new group whose 80% is controlled and owned by Pernas.
The take-over of the Straits Times of Straits Times operations in Malaysia is not a private business deal, but a matter of acute public interest because of the crucial role it plays in opinion making and information dissemination.
It will be a matter of grave public concern if the Straits Times is not being Malaysianised, but being Malay-ised as the reports seem to indicate.
The people and the nation have a right to know the whole facts about the take-over of the New Straits Times Group, who are the new shareholders and controlling interests, the actual role of Pernas and its Chairman, Tengku Raleigh, in it, etc.
In this connection, there is a strong case for the reservation of the shares of the New Straits Times group for its printing and editorial employees, so that the workers have a financial stake in the prosperity of the enterprise as shareholders. This will lead to greater worker’s participation in industry.
The recent events in the mass media world concerning Television and Radio Malaysia, Bernama, New Straits Times Group, indicate that there is a larger Alliance policy to tighten further control over the information processes and through such control, bend the people’s thinking to Alliance directions.
The credibility gap of the government has grown wider and wider, despite such unprincipled and undemocratic practices of the government.
The DAP calls on the Government to liberalise and democracies its mass media policy, to allow press freedom and stop using television and radio as naked, blatant instruments of Alliance propaganda about itself and against the Opposition parties.