PETALING JAYA: A working group representing Malaysian publishers and editors have prepared a draft bill to create the country’s first media council, and the proposal is now open for public feedback.
The draft bill was in response to the government’s call for a media council to be established so that the industry can regulate itself and at the same time, do away with restrictive media laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act.
The working group comprising print, online and broadcast media has been meeting since last August to come to an agreement to set up an independent, impartial and self-regulating media council.
The current proposal calls for members from three sectors – the media industry, working journalists and media organisations – to elect a 20-member executive committee.
The exco then nominates a chairperson and four additional members representing public interest groups. The chairperson shall not be a member of a political party or the government.
The proposed media council will create a code of practice that covers professional journalism, and a complaints mechanism that the public can use to seek remedy for reports that violate the code.
As in other countries, the main aim of the media council is to enable journalists to exercise greater control over their profession as well as to improve the quality of journalism.
“One of the key reasons for the setting up of the media council is to keep the government away from the business of controlling the media.
“We want this process to be as inclusive as possible, which is why we are soliciting public comments for the proposed draft.
“After all, it is in the interest of all Malaysians that journalists can continue to do their job without fear or favour,” said Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan.
The discussion on the media council is not new. A report and a draft bill were prepared by the Malaysian Press Institute in 2001.
However, the move was aborted after the government decided not to proceed with the necessary changes to restrictive laws controlling the media.
“We have been talking about having a media council for decades. I am glad it is finally happening now and we get to regulate ourselves.
“It is only right that we get judged or evaluated by our own peers,” said The Star chief content officer Esther Ng.
“It is a long time coming for us to regulate ourselves. I wish the industry takes this chance to make it happen,” said The Malaysian Insight editor and chief executive officer Jahabar Sadiq.
The working group is seeking public feedback on the draft bill over the next four weeks.
The draft is available at http://bitly.com/mediacouncil2019 and feedback should be sent to email@example.com by April 28, 2019. Comments from the public will be incorporated into the draft proposal.
It is envisaged that the draft prepared by the publisher’s working group – together with other proposals prepared by civil society and other groups – be presented to the government by the end of April.
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