Pursuing press freedom through media reform

Opinion  |  Bob Teoh
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Disparate voices clamouring for press freedom are fast coming out of the woodwork following the sudden demise of the Najib Abdul Razak regime in the May 9 general election.

The newly-minted Pakatan Harapan administration has raised hopes to stratospheric levels that press freedom can be restored quickly. Under the new regime, everything seems doable in the first 100 days.

Truth is, miracles take a little longer. What is needed is media reform through a roundtable by media stakeholders, not reliance on a government-led cut-and-paste job.

In its election manifesto, the new ruling coalition promised to do away with draconian laws that largely affect freedom of expression, and by extension, press freedom.

Although this is not one of its 100-day promises, expectations are that such laws must be removed at the soonest possible juncture, as their continued existence is an affront to the new Malaysia that we woke up to the morning after May 9.

The first to go must surely be the obnoxious Anti-Fake News Act 2018, which was rushed through Parliament by the now-disgraced former prime minister in the dying days of his rule. Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who himself became a target under the law, vowed to repeal it completely if Harapan won in the polls.

But as soon as he became prime minister, Mahathir seemed to have changed his mind, saying in an interview that he would “redefine” the draconian law, and not remove it.

Another odd voice was heard after the polls, with Jelutong MP RSN Rayer calling for TV3's licence to be revoked because of its alleged bias against the DAP-run state government. He was quickly rebuked by both netizens and his own party.

To mollify the situation, the new Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo announced he was rushing to come up with a recommendation, presumably within the next few days, to the cabinet for setting up a media or press council...

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