Former attorney-general Abu Talib Othman has reminded attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali that the world is now moving towards a greater freedom of information.
Abu Talib said this when commenting on Apandi’s proposal to expand the Official Secrets Act 1972 to punish journalists who do not reveal their sources after publishing confidential information.
"The world is moving towards more transparency, not secrecy,” Abu Talib ( photo ) told Malaysiakini yesterday.
Apandi, in an interview with Sin Chew Daily , said he wants the law expanded to also implicate the “journalist, editor, assistant editor and editor-in-chief”, for withholding a identity the identity of their source.
Up in arms over the matter , the National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJM) said this goes against journalism ethics to protect sources of information for a news report.
“The AG’s statement to amend the OSA and introduce a life sentence punishment, and 10 strokes of the rotan, is cruel and undemocratic,” NUJM secretary-general Schave Jerome De Rozario said in a statement.
De Rozario said the proposal can be described as a form of cruelty because a journalist’s job is to report the truth, not otherwise.
He pointed out that all journalists in Malaysia are bound to perform their duties according to the NUJ code of ethics, including to respect the truth, the people’s right to truthful and accurate reporting.
‘Prepare for hostile times’
“Journalists are also bound to uphold two main principles - freedom to find and report news in a truthful manner, as well as the right to fair comment without pressure from any parties,” he said.
At the same time, De Rozario said, all journalists must be prepared to publish corrections if there were any errors made, as well as respecting right of the source to remain anonymous.
He also cautioned journalists to verify sources of information thoroughly, and to be prepared to operate in a more hostile environment.
“Even though we are just reporting the information, there could be concerns that the information was actually leaked and we all know the powers of the AG…
“All in the media industry must be prepared for this from now on,” De Rozario stressed.