Minister, Deputy Minister and RTM warned that they will be guilty of gross
breach of parliamentary privilege if they implement the Zainuddin plan to
have a highly selective and tendentious half-hour daily telecast of
parliamentary proceedings to run down, embarrass and smear Opposition MPs
Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament House, Wednesday): I am holding this media conference to warn the Information Minister, Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, Deputy Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin and RTM that they will be guilty of gross breach of parliamentary privilege if they implement the Zainuddin Maidin plan to have a highly selective and tendentious half-hour daily telecast of parliamentary proceedings to run down, embarrass and smear Opposition MPs.
Zainuddin announced yesterday that RTM had decided to screen the “most interesting” events of the day in its half-hour daily Parliamentary report from September and that “’interesting events’ will also include ‘unparliamentary behaviour’ and the use of words like binatang (animals)”, referring to the incident in Parliament last week involving the DAP MP for Bukit Glugor, Karpal Singh. (The Star)”
The objective of the telecast of parliamentary proceedings is to develop and promote parliamentary democracy by enabling the people to hold Parliament to account and scrutiny, just as Parliament is meant to be the forum to hold the government to account and scrutiny. It is not to allow anyone, including the government-of-the-day, to abuse any electronic media monopoly to run down, embarrass or smear the Opposition, and in particular Opposition MPs.
Zainuddin is notorious in the past five years for his “dirty” propaganda attacks on the Opposition and NGOs by abusing the government’s monopoly of the air waves.
In November 2002, Zainuddin was responsible for the unfair, biased and malicious three-part RTM propaganda feature “Bahaya Cauvinism”, studded with lies and distortions, to falsely portray the DAP and Dong Jiao Zong as anti-Malay, anti-national and unpatriotic for opposing the “2-4-3 formula” to use English to teach mathematics and science in Std. One in Chinese primary schools. Neither DAP nor Dong Jiao Zong was given the right to reply on RTM.
In early January 2002, Zainuddin masterminded the nightly 90-second political broadcast over RTM, camouflaged as news, to attack PAS and Parti Keadilan Nasional. Both parties were denied the right to self defence on RTM.
It is most shocking that the most elementary notion of fair play is completely alien and foreign to Zainuddin, who could yet talk big about press freedom in Malaysia!
Zainuddin will be sorely mistaken if he thinks he can repeat his “dirty” political propaganda tactics with a half-hourly telecast of parliamentary proceedings specially distorted and packaged to run down, embarrass and smear Opposition MPs.
DAP MPs will have no hesitation in referring Zainuddin, the Information Minister and RTM to the Committee of Privileges for gross breach of parliamentary privileges.
Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice defined parliamentary privilege as “the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively..;.and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals”.
The broadcast of parliamentary proceedings, whether live or recorded, will become a gross breach of privilege if it is hijacked to serve ulterior political objectives, such as to run down, embarrass or smear MPs, whether from the ruling or Opposition parties, and to bring Parliament to public odium and disrepute.
Other Parliaments have very clear rules about the broadcast of parliamentary proceedings to protect the dignity of the House by ensuring that the tapes are not used out of context to embarrass a Member or to misrepresent what went on in the House.
In Canada, for instance, there are guidelines regarding camera shots of Members which are generally limited to the torso and head, and taking the cue from the Speaker, showing only those individuals who were formally recognized by the Speaker and reverting to the Chair at all other times.
In Australia, guidelines on the broadcast of parliamentary proceedings, whether live or recorded, include the following:
It is clear that the Zaindudin Maidin programme would violate all these guidelines and rules of good and responsible parliamentary broadcasts, making him, the Information Minister and RTM vulnerable for the offences of breach of parliamentary privilege.
The Committee of Selection will meet on Friday to elect members of the Committee of Privileges for the 11th Parliament, apart from appointing members for the Standing Orders and House Standing Committees.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman