PETALING JAYA: Media advocacy group Geramm (Gerakan Media Merdeka) has once again called on the government to fulfil its promise of press freedom by repealing all laws that stifle freedom of expression.
The group noted that the media industry experienced many challenges in 2019, such as the shuttering of Utusan Malaysia and Tamil Nesan, and the downsizing of Media Prima and New Straits Times Press.
Making matters worse, there were reports of journalists being harassed and even physically assaulted while on duty.
While there was one win for press freedom with the repeal of the Anti-Fake News Act 2019, other restrictive laws remained, Geramm said.
These include the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and Sections 211 and 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
“We repeat our stand that all of the above legislation must be repealed as we head towards the establishment of an independent Media Council, ” it said in a statement Wednesday (Jan 1).
Geramm said it would continue to closely monitor the development of the Media Council after having taken part in discussions with civil society, the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, and government media advisor Datuk A. Kadir Jasin.
It added that the government must ensure that the Media Council would be truly free from political and government control, as well as corporate interests.
“On the issue of corporate control, a major concern appears to be the growing monopoly of media entities, blamed as the reason for these massive industry-wide layoffs.
“Geramm believes in the need to create a freer national media landscape, supported by the enactment of new laws including a 'Media Ownership Act' that could ensure transparency of media investors and owners.
“We believe that the move, along with the repeal of restrictive laws, will spark new growth in the local media industry, particularly with a growing shift towards online digital platforms.
“Media consumers will not only benefit from more news sources, such a move would also open up opportunities by absorbing the large pool of experienced media workers who lost their jobs over shutdowns or downsizing, ” it said.
Geramm also called for solidarity among the media fraternity to uphold freedom of the press.
In addition, it urged citizens to continue to support independent, transparent and responsible journalism, saying that the media had the power to give a voice to the voiceless, as well as serve as a check-and-balance mechanism against those in power.
“Do not allow journalism to be controlled only by those in positions of power, ” it said.