Media council should remain free from interference at all times, say experts

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 28 May 2023

IPOH: The proposed National Media Council must remain free from government interference and stay independent, regardless of any change of government, panellists at the Hawana 2023 media forum said Sunday (May 28).

Speaking at the forum, titled Survival of Traditional Media in the Digital Era, Jakarta Post editor-in-chief Taufiqurrahman, Malaysian Advertisers Association senior adviser Mohammad Kadri Talib, REV Media chief operating officer Nicholas Sagau and Mindshare Group chief executive officer Sheila Shanmugam supported the formation of a media council in Malaysia.

Using the Indonesian press council as an example, Taufiqurrahman said the body has been instrumental in keeping the country’s media independent and free from government interference.

He said the nine-member press council handles any libel or slander complaints from the public, and provides training and education to journalists and media outlets, among others.

"It’s a way to self-regulate ourselves without having political interference from the government or from businesses,” he said.

He also said members of the media council in Malaysia should be elected and not appointed by the government.

On the establishment of the media council in Malaysia, other panellists said there were certain issues that must be addressed first, such as its scope, objective and agenda.

"Do we want to create guidance or impose rules?” asked Sheila.

"What do we need to address and what are the dependencies? Dependencies on which body? Is it about regulation? Is it about content creation? Is it about talent?”

She said determining these details would help get the right members into the right seats.

While the panellists agreed the proposed media council should remain as independent as possible, there is still a place for the government in media affairs.

The panellists discussed whether governments should follow Australia, Indonesia and Taiwan’s example in requiring Big Tech to pay news organisations for using their content on their platforms.

Taufiqurrahman said Indonesia was currently drafting a law requiring social media platforms to enter into business deals with news organisations.

"I think this is the only way we have for us to sort of have a sustainable future to have a level playing field,” he said. "Otherwise, it’s going to be a very cutthroat competition; it’s a free-for-all and if you’re small, you don’t stand a chance.”

However, not all agreed this type of intervention would work.

"I think it’s very hard to level the playing field within the market. Even as much as we transform ourselves, Meta (Facebook’s parent company) and Google will always be there to compete,” said Nicholas.

He said there were several models of income-sharing for news organisations and Big Tech, including working with the social media platforms, or having Big Tech pay a tax to governments, which will be distributed to news organisations.

The media forum, co-organised by the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) and the Institute of Broadcasting and Information Tun Abd Razak, was attended by journalists and academics from Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Japan and Kuwait.

Hawana is celebrated every year on May 29 since 2018 to honour journalists in Malaysia. - Bernama

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