The Communications and Multimedia Ministry is looking at two main areas of focus to encourage better media freedom in the country, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said.
“We have to recognise that we need to do more to push ahead with our reform agenda when it comes to press and media freedom. Two of the main areas that I am looking at is to ensure that all those laws that are required to be amended and abolished are acted on as soon as possible, and also the setting up of the media council,” he said when speaking to the Malaysian media yesterday.
Gobind had earlier addressed a plenary session of the two-day Global Conference for Media Freedom, the first of its kind to be organised, that kicked off in London, United Kingdom, yesterday.
In his speech at the plenary session, “What is Media Freedom: Why is it Important?”, the minister said the new Malaysian government has promised more transparency and accountability, and to repeal oppressive laws which had previously been used to silence the media and dissenting views.
“One of the first pledges that we fulfilled was to repeal the controversial Anti-Fake News Act, an Act which we found to be a piece of legislation hastily enacted by the previous government to clamp down on the press, the opposition and civil society. And even though that bill was defeated in the Senate, the law itself is no longer in use in Malaysia today,” he said.
On the media council, Gobind said the government is in the process of holding consultations and getting feedback through discussions with media owners, journalists, media organisations, trade unions, civil society groups and other groups with vested interests.
The self-regulatory media council, to be helmed by the industry itself, aims to govern the conduct and uphold the quality of news reporting as well as ensuring a responsible, free and vibrant media in Malaysia.
The plenary session panel included UK Foreign Office’s special envoy on Media Freedom Amal Clooney and director-general of Unesco Audrey Azoulay.
The minister also participated in another session that discussed the landscape of media freedom in Southeast Asia.
Panel members included Indonesian Minister for Communications and Information Rudiantara and the chief executive officer and executive editor of online news organisation Rappler, Maria Ressa.
Organised by the governments of Canada and the UK, the conference is hosted by Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The conference is part of an international campaign to shine a global spotlight on media freedom.
This event brought together over 1,000 guests, including government ministers and officials, the diplomatic community, international agencies, journalists, civil society, and academicians.
Among others, it examined the challenges facing media freedom and the opportunities to be created for a safer environment for journalists.