How to ensure fair election news coverage – proposals by journalists’ union

NUJ’s proposals to the Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reforms

  1. The Election Commission
    1. 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.
    2. This is to ensure the media engages in fair reporting so that voters have access to balanced views for them to make their choice.
    3. 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.
  2. Public Media – RTM and Bernama News, Bernama Radio and Bernama Television.
    1. The ruling government will become caretaker government and they should be prohibited from totally monopolising state facilities (RTM and Bernama).
    2. This is because these public media are funded by taxpayers.
    3. 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.
    4. Representatives from both the caretaker government and opposition should be given time to campaign "live" during prime time over radio and television.
    5. Bernama, like private media, should subscribe to ethical reporting, and provide fair and balanced coverage to all parties.
  3. Private Media – Online news portal, newspapers, broadcast stations including Astro.
    1. They should also subscribe to ethical reporting and provide fair coverage.
    2. The right to reply must be given if the media carries adverse report about a party or candidate.
    3. Newspapers and on-line media must sell space to political parties which want to advertise their manifesto.
  4. Media regulations
    1. The Commission can draw up regulations for media committee to enforce regulations under the conduct of election in the Election Act 1958.
    2. 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.
    3. The Commission through the committee should censure the irresponsible media and display complaints received from aggrieved parties in its website.
  5. The police and election ceramahs
    1. 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.
    2. 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.

V. Anbalagan
general secretary
NUJ Malaysia

(The numbering of the sections was changed for easier reading)

» Read the full NUJ letter



2 thoughts on “How to ensure fair election news coverage – proposals by journalists’ union

  1. There are a few points to improve on this memo from NUJ on free and fair elections:
    1. the period where media need to behave fairly to all parties should cover official election period and beyond ie before and after. In Malaysia campaigning actually start well before official campaign period-which is among the shortest/inadequate in the world! If the media were to be reigned in during the short official campaign period of a bit more than 1 week the media can still appear as excessively unfair and unprofessional!
    2. there cannot be exhortation and censure alone to get the media to provide fair coverage; all parties must also be allowed to publish their own paper and all non-parties groups can also publish their own papers, run Tv and radio stations, satellite Tvs etc. Then those limited number of media owners now will not have any monopoly over press coverage /air time;
    3. there must be an enforcement mechanism to ensure the state media provide equitable coverage to all the contending parties eg a bi-partisan and professional complaint panel which has enforcement/sanction power;
    4. The police must not give permit only `sparingly’ as suggested by NUJ-they must give maximally so as not to interrupt campaign within the precious short time! Hope this is just a wrong word used and not the real intention of the NUJ’s General Secretary(SIC). (Or should it be issued by the Secretary General?)

    • Agreed, fair coverage cannot be ensured when the mass media is more or less the monopoly of the ruling party. Fair coverage will be a result of a free press, and that can only come about by ending political ownership, and political control and ownership of state and commercial broadcasting. And ALL political parties should get out and stay out of the news business. We need to build free and independent media. That means independent of any political party. We don’t need even more politically-owned newspapers and broadcasting stations. No! No! No!

      (General secretaries run unions, secretaries-general are government bureaucrats.)

Comments are closed.