PETALING JAYA: Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) director Sonia Randhawa (pic) has called for the repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA), so that a licence is not required to set up a newspaper.
"What CIJ has advocated for many years is for the repeal of the PPPA, and we still think that it should be a priority for the government.
"Once this has been repealed, nobody will need a licence or permit to set up a newspaper.
"Anybody can set up a paper, whether it is you or a group of friends; whether it is the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), or even a political party.
"We don't think there should be any restriction to newspaper ownership," she told The Star on Thursday (Sept 27).
Instead of regulation by the government, Sonia suggested that a media council be set up instead to act as a legitimising body that would also be self-regulating.
"Not everybody who starts a newspaper or works in one is entitled to call themselves an ethical journalist," she said.
Sonia added that it would be a good idea to let the media council be the one to ensure free and independent media companies, and ones that had to abide by certain standards.
She said it was also important that a media company be transparent about ownership, as well as guaranteed editorial independence from its owners.
Sonia stressed that, if set up, the media council's first principle must be to serve the public's right to know, regardless of ownership.
She said if political owners were unable to guarantee the independence of the editorial team, then the newspaper organisation should not be part of the media council.
"That would be a mark that says this is not an ethical newspaper.
"And it also implies that this could be an organisation that is unwilling to commit to standards of journalistic ethics, and I think that is going to be quite embarrassing for anyone.
"But, alternatively, they could say they don't have any interest in that. They might say they are a party political organ, and have an interest in promoting the interest of its own party and members, hence don't need to serve journalistic ethics," she said.
Sonia said the media was not just responsible to owners and publishers, but to the public as well.