The Opposition coalition welcomes the idea for the formation of an alternative international media organisation but it believes that such an organisation must be committed to the principles of truth and justice.

"But it must not be the pliable tool of a handful of the world's still surviving dictatorial leaders," said Rustam A Sani, who is Barisan Alternatif's media and information bureau chairman.

He said in a statement today that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was correct when he pointed out the existence of distortions in reports by various international news organisations, especially in their reports on developing countries.

Mahathir proposed the formation of an alternative media organisation at the close of the fifth Langkawi International Dialogue yesterday.

Speaking on behalf of the 10 participating heads of government, Mahathir said the alternative organisation was needed to counter distorted reports by the foreign media, in particular the wire services.

"We believe that these distortions are partly caused by interests behind the news agencies themselves," said Rustam who is also the PRM vice-president.

He, however, added that it was ironic that the idea to form such an organisation was mooted by Mahathir, who was twice consecutively named by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) as among the "[#1]top ten enemies of the freedom of the press[/#]" in the world.

According to Rustam, Mahathir does not recognise even rudimentary press freedom and practises a "plethora of repressive laws to suppress any form of an alternative press to the mainstream media organisations which are totally controlled by the government".

Rustam said that Mahathir does not have the moral authority to propose the idea and to criticise the state of the international media today.

Recently Malaysian authorities have raided and confiscated alternative magazines and newspapers for being published without permits from the Home Ministry, resulting in at least one publisher being charged for committing offences against the Printing Presses and Publications Act (Publisher charged over permit offence, Nov 22)

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