Malaysian group decries government revamp of independent Chinese-language radio program

alerts-button-1.jpgA coalition of media advocates and civil society groups in Malaysia is protesting a government move ordering a popular Chinese-language radio call-in program to revamp its format and content after it aired listeners’ views deemed inappropriate. Malaysia’s Ministry of Information on June 24 ordered the program, ‘The Mic Is On, With Love, Without Obstacles’, to be reorganized — a move tantamount to taking the program off the air — after it broadcast views critical of a policy relating to education in Selangor.
In a joint petition dated July 5, the coalition called on the government to explain the order. It also asked that the government take concrete actions to prove its expressed commitment to promote transparency and protect people’s rights to free expression and media independence. The 30 or so groups comprising the coalition urged the government to restore the program ‘to provide a channel for citizens to freely and fearlessly discuss matters that concern them.’
The independent online newspaper, Malaysiakini.com reported on July 10 that the Ministry order came a day after the program aired views critical of the Selangor Education Department’s policy to merge classes in Chinese primary schools so as to address a shortage of qualified teachers.
The order forced the program to stop its call-in portion on June 26. On July 3, its main host, Wan Piao Ming, was reportedly replaced. The program content has since been extensively softened to cover less controversial issues such as marital relationships, drug problems and entrepreneurship.
Malaysiakini says the station authorities insist that the decision was made to improve the program’s rating, but media advocacy and civil society groups believe the move was an excuse to axe the program once and for all.
Since its launch on April 4, 2005, the program has gained loyal following. It provides the public a platform to discuss issues freely and and publicly. Among the issues tackled by the program are the switch to English from Chinese as a medium of instruction in certain subjects in primary schools, the rift between the past and present prime minister and anti-price hike demonstrations.
According to Malaysiakini, there have been several complaints from politicians within Malaysia’s ruling coalition about the radio program’s content. The June 24 program, which examines the merging of classes in Chinese-language schools, was reportedly seen as the final straw.

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