PUTRAJAYA: The formation of the Malaysian Media Council (MMC) has received a major boost with the appointment of 17 representatives from the print, electronic and online media, local and foreign media, journalist associations and non-governmental organisations as members of its pro-tem committee.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo announced the appointments at a meeting on the MMC which he chaired at the ministry.
Malaysiakini chief executive officer Premesh Chandran has been appointed the pro-tem committee chairman.
“The pro-tem committee was formed following the decision of the Cabinet on Dec 6 which agreed with the proposal to set up the media council as a self-regulatory body, ” Bernama reported Gobind as saying at a press conference after the meeting yesterday.
He said the appointment of the 17 members was the first step taken in line with a promise in Pakatan Harapan’s 14th General Election manifesto to form the media council comprising leading members of the media fraternity.
“The decision is a major step as now efforts to set up the MMC have started moving after being postponed for so long. I understand that the idea for the council was first brought up and discussed 45 years ago, ” he said.
The MMC will cover all types of media in Malaysia.
Gobind said the committee, comprising media representatives, had two months to discuss and come up with the proposed laws on the council and its functions, adding that he hoped the committee would meet him again with its proposals for submission to the Cabinet.
“I hope we will see the MMC set up at the latest by the end of this year, ” he said.
On funding, he said at present the MMC would be fully funded by the media industry but the ministry was willing to discuss other views.
Gobind said Special Adviser on Media and Communications to the Prime Minister Datuk A. Kadir Jasin had been appointed the MMC adviser.
He also announced the appointment of Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) editor-in-chief Datuk Mokhtar Hussain as a member of the pro-tem committee.
Meanwhile, pro-tem committee member Datuk Yong Soo Heong said credit should be given to Gobind for having the political will to see this through and laying the groundwork together with Kadir, to get various media stakeholders to agree on moving this forward.
“The MMC has finally gained traction towards its eventual establishment.
“It has not been an easy journey and there is still a lot of work to do.
“We should see something concrete later in the year that the local media industry can be proud of, ” said Yong, a Malaysian Press Institute trustee and a former general manager of Bernama.
Other committee members include Rozaid A. Rahman (Star Media Group executive content officer), Datuk Dr Chamil Wariya (Malaysian Press Institute CEO), Ding Jo Ann (Centre For Independent Journalism media monitor), Datuk Ahiruddin Attan (National Press Club president), V. Gayathry (lecturer, Nottingham University), Kuik Cheng Kang (representative of Editors’ Association of Chinese Medium of Malaysia) and Jahabar Sadiq (representative of The Malaysian Insight).
Representatives from Sabah, Sarawak, National Union of Journalists and Foreign Correspondents Club Malaysia were also included in the line-up.
Meanwhile, former Utusan Melayu group editor-in-chief Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar, who is a columnist with The Star, said setting up a media council in a time of Internet and social media onslaughts is a futile effort.
“We should learn from the UK experience. In 1990 the Calcutt report recommended the setting up of a Press Complaints Commission to replace the UK Press Council. The UK Press Council ceased to exist in 1991.
“There is no media council in the US, ” he said.
It is time for Malaysian media, he added, to prove non-statutory self-regulation could work without a statutory framework.
“The setting up of the Malaysian Media Council, initiated by the government and not the industry, is against the spirit of Pakatan Harapan’s pledge to unshackle the yoke of control over the media, ” he said.