Rights group Suaram has commended Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo's move to defend national broadcaster RTM against claims of alleged "sabotage" of the federal government.
Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy, however, also said Gobind's move to seek RTM's response against the claims made by Lim Swee Kuan, press secretary to Transport Minister Anthony Loke, should only be used as a short-term solution.
"In the long term, an independent media council is the best platform to address such concerns.
"Pending the introduction of a media council, the ministry should consider establishing a pro-tem committee to review such disputes to ensure that media freedom is not eroded by selected members of Pakatan Harapan administration that fail to appreciate the importance of media freedom," Sevan said in a statement today.
Discussions to set up an independent press council has been reignited under the present government and recommendations by stakeholders are expected to be tabled to the cabinet in the next two months.
Last Sunday, Lim had accused RTM of trying to sabotage the government after the broadcaster failed to air Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Aminuddin Harun and Loke’s speeches at the national Chinese New Year open house in Seremban that night.
Gobind later said he would seek a clarification from RTM and on Thursday confirmed that the public broadcaster was merely following established protocols when it limited on-air live coverage of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s speech.
Commenting further, Sevan noted that Lim as the complainant has failed to understand processes involved in RTM's operations.
"Such behaviour would only serve to curtail media freedom and portray Pakatan Harapan in the same light as its predecessor," he stressed.
"In the past, the public’s trust in RTM and its contents was eroded due to decades of political patronage and being biased towards the political power of the day.
"If RTM were to regain public trust and serve the needs of all Malaysians, it must be allowed to operate independently and be free from all political interference by the executive," he said.