PETALING JAYA: The proposed Malaysian Media Council can only effectively play its role if the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) is abolished, says the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ).
Its adviser Ding Jo-Ann said having both the PPPA and the media council would defeat the purpose of having a self-regulatory body to regulate media standards.
"Previous efforts to set up a media council started decades ago and mainly did not succeed because the government would not abolish the PPPA.
"It would be difficult for the public and the media industry to take the media council seriously if the Home Ministry still has the power to send show-cause letters to the media, summon editors and threaten to revoke licences," she said.
Ding added that the council was meant to improve media standards and ethics, as well as contribute to the credibility of news media organisations by upholding international standards and providing an avenue for the arbitration of public complaints.
"It is most useful in doing so when it is a voluntary exercise by the media industry (and) not mandated by the government," she said.
Ding added that the PPPA was the government's tool to have control over the media, which she claims had been used over the years to ensure the media toed the government line and did not threaten it politically.
However, she said the PPPA had not necessarily raised ethical standards among the media as there had been cases of unethical media practices that did not invite government sanctions as long as they were in line with the government's political objectives.
"CIJ and many civil society groups have long advocated for repeal of the PPPA as it undermines the freedom of expression guaranteed in our Federal Constitution and does not constitute a legitimate, proportionate and reasonable restriction on this fundamental right," she said.
On Thursday, 17 representatives from the media, journalist associations and NGOs were appointed as members of the Malaysian Media Council's pro tem committee.
Ding was among those appointed and represents the CIJ.
Other members are Malaysian Press Institute CEO Datuk Dr Chamil Wariya, MPI board of trustee member Datuk Yong Soo Heong, National Press Club president Datuk Ahiruddin Attan, Gerakan Media Merdeka spokesman Radzi Razak, Journalists Alliance founding member Tehmina Kaoosji and Nottingham University lecturer V. Gayathry.
Representatives from media organisations include Astro Awani journalist Ashwad Ismail, Star Media Group executive content officer Rozaid Abdul Rahman and Malaysian Insight founder Jahabar Sadiq.
The protem committee also includes representatives from Sabah and Sarawak, the National Union of Journalists and the Foreign Correspondents Club Malaysia.
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