The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) regrets that the government continues to interfere in the editorial decisions of private television and radio stations, and in a recent case, effectively preventing them from broadcasting speeches by opposition party members.
This reported directive from the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), which is under the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communication is a clearly a deliberate attack on Malaysians' rights to freedom of speech and information.
Malaysiakini on June 29 reported and published a letter by the MCMC directing private TV and radio stations to immediately stop broadcasting speeches by the opposition. The brief letter , dated June 7, was signed by the commission's chairman Halim Shafie, but gave no justification for the directive.
MCMC declined to comment when contacted by CIJ. Meanwhile, one of the private television stations, ntv7 reportedly denied on June 28 that it was ordered to blackout speeches by the opposition. There are 16 private radio stations, four free-to-air television stations, and one pay TV which is in operation.
It is often suspected that the government suppresses the publication or broadcasting of information that is deemed critical of the powers-that-be. The directive is a clear evidence of this control and comes as another blow for Malaysians who hope for the upholding of their rights to freedom of speech by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Abdullah, who pledges openness, transparency and integrity and in return won the biggest electoral mandate since 1978 in the 2004 election, continues to allow interference in the media and controls over access to information.
The prime minister also said recently that repressive media laws will not be repealed. In this respect, CIJ urges the government to stop violating people's right to freedom of speech and instead, initiate reforms to remove restrictions to people's access to information.
The writer is executive director of Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ).