By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, February 23, 1995:
DAP calls for fair and equal access to television and radio during general elections, including political broadcasts, news and commentaries
The Minister for Information, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat, said yesterday that five radio networks will he provided for the broadcast of ceramah by leaders of political parties in the run-up to the general elections, namely Radio networks 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 which would be in Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin and Tamil.
Mohamad said the Government, which had earlier decided that political ceramah should not be allowed on TV, felt radio broadcasts were more suitable.
Television coverage on the activities of political parties during the election, the Minister said, would be in the form of news coverage.
Malaysia must be the only country in the world claiming to be democratic which denies the Opposition free and equal access to television and wants to confine the Opposition to the radio medium – and under most restrictive and unfair conditions.
If Mohamed Rahmat is convinced that the radio is a better and more popular media than television for political broadcasts, is he going to recommend to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, to stop using the television media and to confine himself solely to the ‘more effective’ radio channels for his daily political speeches and pronouncements?
The DAP does not mind using the ‘less effective’ medium of television and letting the Barisan National leaders to monopolise the ‘more effective’ medium of radio political broadcasts!
To say the television coverage of the activities of political parties in the next general elections would be confined to news coverage is completely unacceptable – for Malaysians will find as in previous general elections that television news would be dominated by speeches, statements and even falsehoods by Barisan Nasional leaders while there would be no fair coverage for the opposition leaders in the television news programmes.
In fact, the Barisan Nasional just used the television news coverage as another form of political telecast – which is completely denied to the Opposition.
In the next general elections, there must be fair and equal access to television and radio, including political broadcasts, news and commentaries, if the next general elections is to be universally-recognised as ‘free, fair and clean’.
This will also be in keeping with the call by the Election Commission for free and equal access to state-controlled media, particular television and radio.
All political parties should be invited to a conference to discuss how there could be a fairer radio and television coverage for the next general elections, as it is in the national interest that the general elections should be accepted locally as well as internationally as truly ‘free, fair and clean’.
In the next general election, the government should also consider allowing opposition parties or the private sector to operate radio and television channels to cover the general election.
With four million Barisan Nasional members who are registered voters – which itself means 59 per cent of popular vote with a 75 per cent voter turn-out Barisan should allow free and equal access to television and radio to Opposition
Mohamed should be prepared to have a more liberal radio and television coverage as the Barisan Nasional is so confident about the next general election, with over 40 per cent of the nine million voters as Barisan Nasional members.
Mohamad Rahmat, who is also Barisan Nasional secretary-general, expressed the confidence of the Barisan Nasional for the next general election only last weekend, when he pointed out that the collective membership of the Barisan Nasional already made up more than 40 per cent of the total voters.
He said: “The total Barisan membership in the various parties is more than four million against the nine million registered voters.”
If there is 75 per cent voter turn-out in the next general elections, with Barisan Nasional assured of four million registered voters who are Barisan Nasional members, Barisan Nasional will start off on Nomination Day assured of 59 per cent of the total votes cast – which means Barisan Nasional will be heading to score its greatest election victory in Malaysian history, as the highest popular vote ever cast by the Barisan Nasional was only 60.7 per cent in the 1974 general elections.
Under these favourable conditions, why should the Barisan Nasional continue to be so restrictive and undemocratic as to deny free and equal access to the television and radio to the Opposition?