How to ensure fair election news coverage – proposals by journalists’ union
NUJ’s proposals to the Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reforms
- The Election Commission
- The Election Commission must be empowered to form a media monitoring committee whose duties will include issuing guidelines to print, broadcast and on-line media.
- This is to ensure the media engages in fair reporting so that voters have access to balanced views for them to make their choice.
- The committee should be on duty from the time the Dewan Rakyat/State Assemblies are dissolved until election results are announced. In the case of by-elections, the committee should spring into action from the time there is a casual vacancy until election results are announced.
- Public Media – RTM and Bernama News, Bernama Radio and Bernama Television.
- The ruling government will become caretaker government and they should be prohibited from totally monopolising state facilities (RTM and Bernama).
- This is because these public media are funded by taxpayers.
- NUJ proposes that the number of hours allocated for political parties to campaign over radio and television should be based on the percentage of parliamentary seats won in the last election or on the percentage of parliamentary seats currently they are contesting.
- Representatives from both the caretaker government and opposition should be given time to campaign "live" during prime time over radio and television.
- Bernama, like private media, should subscribe to ethical reporting, and provide fair and balanced coverage to all parties.
- Private Media – Online news portal, newspapers, broadcast stations including Astro.
- They should also subscribe to ethical reporting and provide fair coverage.
- The right to reply must be given if the media carries adverse report about a party or candidate.
- Newspapers and on-line media must sell space to political parties which want to advertise their manifesto.
- Media regulations
- The Commission can draw up regulations for media committee to enforce regulations under the conduct of election in the Election Act 1958.
- It should be emphasised that no candidates, agents or political parties through the media before and during the election make statements to promote feelings of ill will, discontent or hostility as stated under section 4A of the Election Offences Act 1954.
- The Commission through the committee should censure the irresponsible media and display complaints received from aggrieved parties in its website.
- The police and election ceramahs
- Apart from ensuring a free media during the election, the Commission must see that the police sparingly and speedily approve permits for political parties and independent candidates to conduct ceramah.
- The role of the police is to ensure public safety and order. If two opposing parties are conducting ceramah which is close to one another, police should distance them to prevent any untoward incident.
A free and fair election is an important component of a functional parliamentary democracy.
Voters must be given the free will to elect their wakil rakyat, their Federal Government and State Governments who will make decisions on their behalf over the next five years.
Thus, electorates must have ready access to information, news and commentaries for them to make an informed decision.
The Commission must ensure the media, whose business is to sell information and influence the public, play the role of a unbiased referee.
Undisputed election results will give legitimacy to the new government/s and the mandate to administer the states and the federation.
(The numbering of the sections was changed for easier reading)