KUALA LUMPUR: A working committee, representing different interest groups including media owners, is to be set up as the first step towards forming a media council after a forum to discuss the setting up of the watchdog organisation.
Suhakam commissioner Zainah Anwar said the different groups, whom she called stakeholders, had agreed that such a council was needed to promote freedom of the press, as well as to protect the interests of journalists and the public.
Five groups of stakeholders media owners, editors, journalists, civil society and journalists from Sabah and Sarawak attended the Consultation on the Formation of the Media Council initiated by Suhakam yesterday.
Zainah said the committee would ensure broader consultation on the councils formation among the various stakeholders so that each party will feel that they own the media council that is set up by them.
She said Suhakam was asked to initiate the consultation as there was unhappiness over the proposed draft of the media councils constitution submitted by the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI), for example, among journalists who said they were not consulted on the councils formation.
She said the consultation appeared to have not filtered down when even some editors said they were not aware or consulted on the councils formation.
Another commissioner, Prof Datuk Hamdan Adnan, said the working committee would have 10 representatives two from each group of stakeholders.
He said the committee would study the formation of the council and the proposed drafts of the Media Councils constitution and code of ethics for media organisations to adopt submitted by the MPI.
The 10 names are expected to be submitted by the end of the month and the committee will hold its first meeting next month to discuss the points of the MPI drafts.
The forum will meet again six months after the committees first meeting to consider what the committee comes up with, he said.
However, Prof Hamdan said those at the forum yesterday could not agree whether the council should be a voluntary or statutory organisation.
The arguments were that if it was as a voluntary organisation, some key organisations might not want to be involved while those against formation by law argued that they did not want Government legislation to govern the workings of the council.
He said the committee would ensure all parties were given the chance to give their feedback.
Other aspects of the council discussed at the forum were funding, jurisdiction and membership and how it would deal with complaints.
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