….with the Anwar Ibrahim interview the authorities tried to ban
Malaysia’s newest independent radio station begins broadcasting on Monday night. Radio Free Malaysia will be available on Medium Wave at 1359kHz AM/MW each night between 9pm and 11pm local Malaysia time.
The highlight of the first show will be a full-length exclusive interview with the PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim, who, like other opposition figures, has been largely excluded from Malaysia’s mainstream media so far.
RFM represents a ground breaking venture, because it will be transmitted from outside of Malaysia and therefore is not subject to licencing by the federal government. The station therefore aims to be free of the political interferences that have caused Malaysia’s media to become recognised as one of the most restrictive in the world.
“RFM will be free of political censorship by the ruling BN coalition and plans to provide a platform for alternative ideas and viewpoints”, explains founder Clare Rewcastle Brown, who is basing the programme out of the UK.
“It is well known that all press and broadcast media currently operating in Malaysia are forced to unquestioningly support and promote the ruling BN coalition and to denigrate the opposition parties, while excluding them from the chance to put their own policies and agendas before the people”.
“It is unacceptable that Malaysia poses to the world as a democracy and is about to hold a general election, and yet it is only members of the ruling coalition (in power for the entire 50 years since independence) who are allowed to have their voices heard by the people”.
Radio Free Malaysia is a sister station of the existing short wave programme Radio Free Sarawak, which broadcasts on shortwave for the benefit of indigenous communities in East Malaysia. However, the new nightly programme will operate completely independently on the more accessible Medium Wave band and use only Bahasa.
“A separate team has come together to run this show and their remit is to provide two hours a day of the sort of programming that people have been unable to find on any other mainstream radio or TV in Malaysia”, says Rewcastle Brown. “Just a few days ago one independent station was forced to withdraw an interview with Anwar Ibrahim from broadcast owing to political pressures. We do not intend to be bullied in this way and now we can bring people the interview that the authorities have tried to ban”
“Anyone wanting to find out what the opposition policies and arguments actually are will now be able to tune in to our show, which can be accessed on any radio set in Malaysia and find out. At last people without access to the internet will have the opportunity to make a more informed choice at the ballot box.
It is has also been of widespread concern that mainstream media outlets are being used by BN to spread politically motivated slanders and allegations about opposition figures and their policies, while at the same time refusing to allow them the space to answer the allegations or defend themselves in any way.
“Our short two hour programme provides a very limited opportunity for people who have been attacked in the media to exercise their right to reply. It is not much, but it is better than nothing and I anticipate that people from all over Malaysia will be intrigued to be able to tune in for the first time to the opposition’s response to the barrage of attacks they have been subjected to. We intend to punch above our weight, because we are providing a much needed service unavailable elsewhere”, said Rewcastle Brown.
The programme will also focus on stories, which have so far been the subject of a disgraceful blackout in the regular media, because they are judged inconvenient to BN. Only the more free on-line news platforms have been allowed to give proper coverage to such matters as the Scorpene submarine contract scandal; the corruption scandals involving the Chief Ministers of Sabah and Sarawak; the murder of the model Altantuya; the so-called ‘cowgate’ scandal and numerous other cases of corruption and controversy involving those close to the BN government.
These matters are waiting to find a place on Radio Free Malaysia, so that a wider public can be made aware of the issues that have been suppressed in their regular newspapers and broadcasts, which are subjected to total censorship by ‘News Controllers’ answerable to the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture, say the producers.
“We would certainly be very pleased to also do interviews with any BN figures of significance who are willing to appear on our show”, confirms Rewcastle Brown. “However, they will not be getting the deliberate soft ride they are always accustomed to from the licenced media. We will ask tough questions about tough subjects, which as the people in charge of making decisions for the country they ought to be answering”.
Rewcastle Brown confirms that she will not be determining content. “There is a team of Malaysian producers and presenters who will be running Radio Free Malaysia, we are merely operating out of the UK in order to avoid censorship.”.
Radio Free Malaysia will also be operating a call in line so that listeners can take part in the show the toll free number is 1-800-815-309 and callers will be able to leave messages and their number at any time of the day.
The Radio Show will also be accessible on-line via podcast at its website www.radiofreemalaysia.org.
The station, which is operating independently of major donors, has launched a drive for donations via its website. We will not be able to maintain the project unless enough members of the public come to our help to support our costs. However, we are hopeful and confident that the millions of Malaysians, who are longing for a more free and open media will support us and keep us afloat
Radio Free Malaysia (RFM)
AM/MW 1359 kHz, 2100-2300 nightly
Toll free number: 1-800-815-309