KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — The Election Commission (EC) has asked the government for airtime on national television to hold forums for all political parties during the campaign for a general election that must be held within the year.
The Star reported today EC deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar as saying that the commission wanted to provide a platform for all parties to highlight their manifestos and to disseminate their messages to the voters.
Free and fair access to the media for all political parties was a key demand by electoral reforms movement Bersih that was also adopted by the recently concluded parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral improvements.
"We have visited several countries where the election commissions there facilitate airtime to ensure fair and equal access for all those contesting in the elections," he was quoted as saying by The Star.
Wan Ahmad (picture) added yesterday the EC had requested airtime from the information and communication ministry, which controls state-run channels under Radio Television Malaysia and the state news agency Bernama.
Asked if the EC would host political debates, Wan Ahmad said, "We will focus more on programmes for the contesting parties to have their say. We have not finalised the details yet."
EC chairman Tan Sri Aziz Mohd Yusof mirrored his colleague's sentiments, saying the commission would prepare a draft guideline for the mainstream media to ensure fair coverage for all parties.
"Although we have no authority over the privately-run mass media, we will also provide guidelines for them after holding discussions with the stakeholders," he added.
Wan Ahmad said the EC would also hold meetings with the print media to encourage them to provide a balanced coverage to all parties during the campaigning period.
"We also hope party organs like Harakah, Roket, Roketkini and Suara Keadilan will provide a balanced coverage.
"They (the Opposition) have been demanding fair and balanced coverage from the mainstream media. They should also exercise what they preach," he added.
Besides RTM and Bernama, the major players in the print and broadcast media are controlled by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) and media watchdogs have for many years criticised their lopsided coverage.
By Lisa J. Ariffin