Ownership of the media by political parties should be avoided to combat misinformation and create a better environment for the press, said Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo.
However, he said, the decision to outlaw this has to be decided by the government.
Gobind was speaking at the opening of the ‘Think Media Malaysia 2018 with Google’ event in Kuala Lumpur today, which was also attended by the company’s Sajith Sivanandan.
Gobind said the ministry was always open to engaging with relevant stakeholders in order to find the best way forward for this country and its people.
“We are pleased to support and cooperate with all parties to ensure a more conducive environment for media practitioners.
“As a government that respects freedom of information and expression, we not only expect high standards from all vested-interest stakeholders, but that it must come with a heavy responsibility to propagate credible news and information,” he said.
Gobind Singh said his ministry was in the process of proposing amendments to some of the provisions relating to fake news that had been used by the previous BN government.
“For example, under Section 233, it is a crime to disseminate material that is deemed offensive, but what is ‘offensive’ and to which parties is it debatable and ambiguous?” he said.
As for the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 which was repealed last week in Parliament, Gobind said the act was hastily passed in early April a few weeks before the 14th general election on May 9.
“The timing and haste of the passing of the bill was highly suspicious, and led to speculation that it was a tool meant to be used against Pakatan Harapan, as the latter was trying to garner support in a hotly-contested election and one that could result in a change of government.
“This is, of course, now fact,” he said.
Gobind also cited the example of how the 1MDB issue, which he described as the world’s biggest financial scandal, was something that was repeatedly played down by the then-government.
“Lawsuits were also levelled against parliamentarians for speaking up,” he said and added that websites and Facebook pages were set up to propagate pro-BN propaganda and to incite hatred and ill-will against the opposition.
He drove home the point that everyone cannot deny that the existence and proliferation of fake news and information were very real and that it must be addressed.
“What constitutes ‘fake news’ has to be looked at with specific references and context,” he said.
Gobind said that the government, therefore, intended to have exhaustive dialogue and engagement with all stakeholders in order to combat ‘fake news’ more effectively.