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Media Council must guarantee inclusive stakeholders participation

LETTER | The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) welcomes the announcement by the Deputy Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Eddin Syazlee Shith, on the government’s move to facilitate the establishment of the Malaysian Media Council.

We are supportive of the initiative as the Media Council, as an open, accountable, transparent and independent self-regulatory body, would be instrumental in building confidence in the media and contribute to the credibility of news media organisations by upholding international standards and in providing an avenue for the arbitration of public complaints.

We urge the government to ensure that the proposed entity that will be constituted to develop the framework of establishing the media council guarantees an equal and inclusive process of public participation.

It should be made up of representatives from key stakeholders, including representatives of the media, civil society and academia, among others.

The Pakatan Harapan general election manifesto promised the establishment of a Media Council and the repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984 and other draconian colonial-era laws.

Removing any serious threats to free speech and media that continue to lurk within our legal system needs to happen concurrently to demonstrate the Harapan government’s commitment to the rule of law, to strengthen free speech and significantly improve both the responsiveness and responsibility of the media in upholding public interest.

CIJ would like to reiterate our position that any moves to institute a media council should be contingent upon repeal of any legislative barriers that would prevent the upholding of the duty to respect and protect the rights to media freedom and access to information.

Thus, we call on the repeal of repressive laws that govern the media, in particular, the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984, the Sedition Act 1948, Sections 233 and 211 of the Communications and Multimedia Act, along with review of the Official Secrets Act and the enactment of a Right to Information Act.

This is necessary to remove and regulate the current wide powers given to the authorities to act, at times unilaterally, with regard to curtailing news content and the threat to revoke newspaper licences on insubstantial grounds, among others.

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is a non-profit organisation that aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free where all people will enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek, and impart information. CIJ actively advocates for broader space for expression and views and openness of information in Malaysia.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.