Online news keeps S’wakians more informed, says Jaban

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PETALING JAYA: Alternative media today is keeping Sarawakians far more informed than they were five years ago about the political goings-on around them, says Radio Free Sarawak presenter Peter John Jaban.

Jaban said this when speaking to FMT during the two-day Freedom Film Festival being held at PJ Live Arts here today.

He was there to promote the ‘Borneo Case’, a compelling documentary detailing the destruction of Borneo’s rainforests and alleged corruption in Sarawak.

He mentioned news portals Free Malaysia Today and Malaysiakini as among the online media that exposed the wrongdoings of the state government, and added, “People in towns have access to these alternative online news.”

He said Free Malaysia Today specifically was big among Sarawakian town folk and that many also listened to alternative radio channels as well.

He did however concede that news of mismanagement within the state government was slow to reach rural folks, and added, “That is why the government keeps winning.”

He said rural voters were desperate for better schools for their children, medical assistance and roads, as evidenced during the last state election when the Pan Borneo Highway project was the most talked about issue.

“That (Pan Borneo Highway) was a big thing. A big hit. They (rural voters) want progress.”

However, Jaban said the government was now backtracking on the highway’s budget, something that has caused growing frustration among rural voters who felt helpless about the situation.

“Radio Free Sarawak is hoping to fill in that gap. We go on air two hours daily hoping to create awareness on human rights and on their (voters) rights during general elections.”

Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem had said in June he would sort out with Putrajaya the budget allocation for the highway as he was under the notion that the RM16 billion federal fund to build the Sarawak stretch was a separate allocation over and above the normal annual budget for infrastructure development.

Meanwhile, whistle-blower Clare Rewcastle-Brown of the Sarawak Report urged Malaysians to participate in the Tangkap Malaysian Official 1 (TMO1) rally scheduled for Aug 27 at the Dataran Merdeka.

“Each person who joins the coming rally, they are doing something (positive for the country).

“You will be doing your part to bring a change. Don’t give up hope,” she said during a Skype session with participants at the same Freedom Film Festival.

Rewcastle-Brown, who is editor of the Sarawak Report said this when asked by a participant what Malaysians could do as individuals to be as effective as the whistleblowing site in bringing about change in the country’s political arena.

The rally, led by a group of students, are targeting some 10,000 participants to join them in pressuring the authorities to arrest and charge “Malaysian Official 1″ as described by the US Department of Justice last month in their lawsuits.