New online Radio Free Malaysia (RFM) will be free of censorship and "will not" cower to political pressure.
PETALING JAYA: With a pivotal general election in the near horizon and opposition’s inaccessibility to the traditional media, a new online radio station akin to the successful Radio Free Sarawak is set to add to Najib Tun Razak and Umno’s headaches.
Radio Free Malaysia (RFM) will hit the airwaves tonight at 9pm on medium wave at 1359kHz, showcasing an interview which Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had with business radio station BFM. The interview never got aired due to “concerns” over Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission regulations.
In the interview Anwar was, among other issues, pointedly asked if he was gay or bisexual as alleged by the ruling administration.
RFM and its kick-off with Anwar’s interview comes at a time of uncertainty over Anwar’s continued ‘free’ state.
There are widespread claims and allegations that Anwar is linked to the deadly Lahad Datu invasion by a band of Filipinos calling themselves soldiers of the royal Sulu army from southern Mindanao. Ten Malaysian soldiers and policemen have since been killed.
RFM’s daily two-hour – 9pm to 11pm – Bahasa Malaysia segment will podcast out of UK. Many view it as an opportunity for the opposition, their supporters and Malaysians in general to air their opinions about the state of affairs in the country.
According to its owner Clare Rewcastle-Brown, the online station will be operated by a team of Malaysians.
Rewcastle-Brown, a former BBC journalist and sister-in-law to ex-British premier Gordon Brown, also runs the controversial Radio Free Sarawak and online whistleblower site Sarawak Report.
The opposition’s inroads into Sarawak and its unprecedented 15 seats victory in the 2011 state election have often been attributed to these media platforms. Radio Free Sarawak podcasts in native Iban and has an extensive reach into rural Sarawak.
‘We can’t be bullied’
In a statement issued over the weekend, Rewcastle-Brown said RFM, working on the same mould as RFS, will offer a platform for alternative views.
“It provides a very limited (only two hour broadcast) opportunity for people who have been attacked in the media to exercise their right to reply.
“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.
“(In fact) 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.
Rewcastle-Brown said that BN politicians would also be welcomed on the show but “they cannot expect an easy ride”.
“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.
“RFM will be free of political censorship by the ruling BN coalition and plans to provide a platform for alternative ideas and viewpoints,” she said.
She also added that aside from the Anwar interview, future programmes would include various cases of controversy and corruption linked to the BN government such as the Scorpene submarine scandal, the death of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaarriibuu, and the corruption scandals of Sabah and Sarawak Chief Ministers.