Malaysiakini Letter

Undilah video censorship absurd, undemocratic

Masjaliza Hamzah  |  Published:  |  Modified:

Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is shocked to learn that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has issued a directive to broadcasters not to air a video promoting voting for the upcoming general election. MCMC’s ‘ban’ of the Undilah project’s public service announcement urging the rakyat to vote is absurd and against the spirit of democracy.

Media reports on Sept 23, quoting unnamed sources, said the MCMC letter to broadcast giants Media Prima and Astro cited two reasons behind the ‘ban’: BN MP Tengku Razaleigh’s admission that Malaysia was facing problems and the appearance of opposition politicians.

 

Apart from Pakatan Rakyat’s Nurul Izzah Anwar, Tony Pua, Khalid Samad and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, the hip promo also featured two deputy ministers, celebrities such as Daphne Iking, and famous Malaysians Tony Fernandes and Lee Chong Wei rapping to a tune led by Namewee and Afdlin Shauki.

The ‘ban’ came just days after Prime Minister Najib Razak, in his Malaysia Day message, announced a set of reforms affecting civil liberties, and promised Malaysia was on the path towards being the world’s best parliamentary democracy.

This latest case of censorship highlights the powers given to the MCMC to police broadcast and online content under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA), which governs the multimedia and communications industry.

Given the politically-motivated nature of this directive from MCMC, CIJ wishes to highlight a few ironies in the composition and function of this ‘independent’ commission which is under the direction of the information, communications and culture minister:

  • under Section 71 and 72 of the CMA, reports of investigations are given to the Minister who may direct the Commission to publish what it deems to be of national interest;
  • under Section 6 of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Act 1998 (MCMCA), MCMC membership is appointed by the Minister (one chairperson, three from the government, and two to five other members);
  • under Section 12(1) of the MCMCA, the Minister may revoke the appointment of any member without giving any reason.

CIJ urges the MCMC to immediately rescind the directive. In addition, the MCMC must make public the findings of the inquiry which resulted in the directive being issued to Astro and Media Prima.

Public service announcements urging voters to honour the electoral process by going out to vote is a matter of national interest which should be given due respect by the MCMC and the information, communications and culture minister. We also urge the PM to include amendments to the CMA and MCMCA as part of the “transformation” of Malaysia.

Masjaliza Hamzah is CIJ executive director.

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