Do your part, Bersih tells media on educating public on election offences

Members of the media seen outside a polling centre in Rantau during the by-election there last month.

PETALING JAYA: Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 has urged the media to help raise awareness of election offences and the public’s role in reporting such incidents, acknowledging that its regular calls for people to sound the alarm over election infringements have received only a lukewarm response.

Bersih chairman Thomas Fann said many people are unaware of what constitutes an election offence and do not know where to lodge their complaints.

“As an NGO, we are limited in our ability and resources to run public awareness campaigns,” he told FMT ahead of the Sandakan polls on May 11, the eighth by-election since the general election last year.

“But the Election Commission and public broadcasters like Radio Televisyen Malaysia and Bernama, or even private broadcasters like Astro or Media Prima, can raise public awareness on this,” he added.

He said the media could also highlight how leaders are elected and how laws are created, adding that it is incumbent on it as the fourth estate to contribute to free and fair elections.

Even so, Fann said, Bersih remains committed to raising the alarm and creating awareness of election laws as it monitors elections and campaigns.

“We are looking to develop a mobile app in time for GE15, where users can be informed of what constitutes an offence so that they can capture the offences (on tape) and send them to us.”

Fann was asked to comment on the practicality of Bersih’s new “Pemantau” campaign, aimed at encouraging voters to lodge complaints on irregularities and cheating ahead of the Sandakan by-election.

Former Bersih acting chairman Shahrul Aman Mohd Saari, Fann’s immediate predecessor, said concerns over Bersih’s ability to involve the people show the need to expedite electoral reforms.

“Apart from legislation, one cannot emphasise enough the importance of public education,” Shahrul told FMT when contacted.

“If the public rejects it, so will politicians,” he added.

The Pemantau campaign follows post-election reports by Bersih of election offences by both Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders and candidates.

Offences include bribery, whether in cash or kind, undue influence on voters such as giving out free food, abuse of government machinery and resources, and use of government influence to garner votes.

The Sandakan by-election was called following the death of incumbent Stephen Wong from DAP. Polling will be on May 11, with the two-week campaign period taking place during the Ramadan fasting month.