Call on government to democratise and liberalise its mass media policy to permit freedom of speech and information

Speech by DAP Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on 24 Jan 1973

Call on government to democratise and liberalise its mass media policy to permit freedom of speech and information and fair television time for all language programmes

I refer to B.36 sub-head 1100: Gaji and Upahan untok ranchangan atau programming, under the Ministry of Broadcasting.

Since September last year, for almost every night, Television Malaysia telecasts the same programes 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 sees the same Minister planting a tree, cutting a ribbon or making a speech. What made matters worse is that this is done during the prime television time between 8.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m.

The worst victims are the Chinese and Tamil film programmes which are interrupted no less than three times, and sometimes four times, by other programmes – apart from television advertisement interruptions.

This television policy of the Alliance government is an admission of failure of the propaganda television programmes to draw viewers, in particular Peristiwa, which is nothing less than the glorification of Alliance leaders and actions. For if the Peristiwa programme is popular, then there is no need to make this programme a compulsory item by commandeering both channels to transmit it at the same time every night.

Such television policy is also further proof of the illiberal and intolerant attitude of those who are in charge of broadcasting service.

Malaysian television viewers are denied a freedom of choice of programes. They are given no alternative but to watch and see Alliance propaganda films during prime television time. In this way, the Alliance seeks to control information and thought among the people in the country. I think Malaysia must have the distinction of forcing the people to watch the same series of each night for months on end programme on both channels at the same time.

Television Malaysia is a national service, and not an Alliance property, and should cater to the educational, informational and entertainment needs of the 11 million Malaysians. It should not be a propaganda instrument of the Alliance. In this connection, I shudder to think what will be the position should we have five or six channels. Malaysians to see the same Peristiwa programme of say, the Information and Broadcasting Minister planting a tree and speechifying whether it is the first, second, third, fourth or fifth channel.

I notice that there is some modification in the past week or so, and I want an assurance from the Minister concerned that such wasteful and ridiculous programming would not be repeated in future.

Greater impartiality and independence in television and radio news

I would like to see greater impartiality and independence in television and radio news. They should not degenerate into Alliance mouthpieces to discredit opposition parties in the country.

Thus, recently, when it was announced that 200 members of DAP had left in Batang Berjuntai to join ADMO (Alliance Direct Membership Organisation) and 150 DAP members in Jalan Temerloh in Kuala Lumpur subsequently follow suit, all the government mass media, radio, television and BERNAMA, gave big play and fanfare.

But when my colleague, Sdr. Lee Lam Thye challenged the Mentri Besar of Selangor, Datuk Harun bin Idris, to substantiate that 350 DAP members have resigned, failing which he should resign as Mentri Besar of Selangor for telling downright lies, all the government mass media blacked out the DAP reply. Sdr. Lee Lam Tyne, who is the DAP leader in the Selangor State Assembly, and all the other five DAP State Assemblymen, offered to resign their seats if Datuk Harun could prove that 350 card-carrying members of the DP have defected to the Alliance.

This is clearly contrary to the highest standards of journalism. Nowadays, it is quite easy for an ordinary person to get VIP treatment in government mass media, radio, television or BERNAMA, by just claiming that he has left the DAP although he had never been a member in the first place.

In fact, Datuk Harun presented a gold tie-pin to someone for great contribution in bringing 200 DAP members in Batang Berjuntai in the Alliance, when it was a complete figment of a very fertile imagination.

No wonder the people have cease to believe radio, television and Bernama news and commentaries, for they are partial, prejudiced and terribly slanted.

Fair television time for all language programmes

Finally, in catering to the needs of a multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-cultural society like Malaysia, Television Malaysia must give fair time to all language programmes.

It is the legitimate and widespread complaint of viewers that Television Malaysia has discriminated against giving fair time to non-Malay language programmes, whether it be in terms of films, variety shows, musicals, sketches.

Malaysia is made up of the three main races, and they must all be given fair representation in the allocation of television time.