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IFJ supports proposed electoral reporting reforms

(IFJ/IFEX) - February 2, 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) extends its support to the proposal put forward by its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), for reforms to electoral reporting in Malaysia.

On January 25, the NUJ submitted its proposal to Malaysia's Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reforms, which has sought public submissions regarding proposed measures to aid the conducting of free and fair elections. The Committee's work will feed into a report to be tabled for debate by legislators during the March sitting of Malaysia's Parliament.

Changes proposed by the NUJ's submission include:

- For the Election Commission of Malaysia to form a media-monitoring committee, mandated to issue guidelines to print, broadcast and on-line media during the election period.
- Campaigning by incumbent government and opposition parties during the election period on state run news agencies to be allocated based on the percentage of parliamentary seats won in the previous election or on parliamentary seats being contested.
- Equal time allocated to both the caretaker government and opposition for live campaigning over broadcast media.
- Equal access to purchasing of advertising space within media publications to all political parties.
- Commitments to fair and balanced reporting by all public and private media.
- For the media-monitoring committee to draft regulations that enforce regulations related to conduct under the Election Act (1958), and
- Oversight by the Electoral Commission to ensure that police exercise diligence and promptness in approving permits for political parties and independent candidates to conduct public meetings.

Although the current term of Malaysia's national government is not due to end until 2013, there has been widespread media speculation that an early general election will be called in the first quarter of 2012.

"Access to reliable and impartial information is a prerequisite for fair and open elections", said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

"The IFJ urges Malaysia's Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral reforms to give genuine consideration to the reforms proposed by the NUJ, in order to ensure fair and balanced reporting during Malaysia's next election period."

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