Malaysia should accede to ICCPR without further delay

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On World Press Freedom Day 2017, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) urges the government to accede without further delay to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Article 19 of the ICCPR provides that everyone has the right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. Suhakam reiterates that the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and freedom of expression are indispensable conditions for the full development of a person; and constitutes the foundation stone for every democratic society.

Suhakam has always regarded the media as an essential instrument that has the potential to contribute immensely to the promotion and protection of human rights. The media does not only act as a conveyor of information but it also, either intentionally or indirectly, shapes public perception and opinion.

While the freedom of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a truly free State; particularly that no restraints shall be placed upon publications, the media must exercise this right with responsibility as well as courage and sense of purpose.

Suhakam believes that on one hand, the media can serve as an effective apparatus for raising human rights awareness, and for highlighting infringements and violations of human rights facing the people. Such role by the media is instrumental in ensuring that human rights concerns are brought to the attention of the relevant authorities as well as the public at large, with a view to prompting action and measures to address the issues.

On the other hand, the media can also have the effect of instilling or reinforcing sentiments and values that run counter to human rights principles and standards, making it much more difficult to advance respect for human rights.

While Suhakam recognises the important role the media plays in keeping public discourse alive, the media should continuously seek to improve their reporting standards and endeavour to promote human rights. In this regard, adherence to a code of ethics is paramount paramount in ensuring professionalism in media reporting. A free, responsible and unbought media is essential in any society to ensure freedom of opinion and expression.

RAZALI ISMAIL is chairperson, The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

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