The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Malaysia has lent its support to calls against proposed amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998.
In a statement, NUJ said the proposed amendments could further entrench censorship in an already heavily regulated environment for the media and other publications.
“We call on the government to refrain from adopting any of the proposed amendments (if confirmed), in line with the international principles on freedom of expression…,” NUJ said in a statement today.
“The lack of transparency in this process is undemocratic and emblematic of a larger trend in recent years of the government amending laws to further crack down on free speech rather than promote and protect the right,” said the national union representing some 1,500 members from 10 publications.
On the basis of information available, NUJ highlighted three main concerns:
The registration of political blogs and websites;
An increase in penalties for offences related to undesirable content; and
Broader powers for the internet regulatory body - the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) - to take down online content without proper oversight.
While the NUJ traditionally represents interests of members from local newspapers, it acknowledged that online news now plays a bigger role in informing the public.
“Clamping down on online reporting will not only maim freedom of information but also remove the democratic rights of the people,” it said.
The NUJ also noted that the government has yet to publicly announce details on the proposed amendments, despite its promise of full consultation with relevant stakeholders.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak had in March said the plans to amend the country's communications and internet laws have been delayed so that all stakeholders can be properly consulted.
Other local press freedom groups including Gerakan Media Marah and Centre for Independent Journalism had also previously highlighted fears that the proposed amendments would extend existing restrictions imposed on the print media to the online realm.