PETALING JAYA: Protection must be put in place for media practitioners in the country, says the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) on World Press Freedom Day (May 3).
It said this year's theme of "Journalism without Fear or Favour" highlighted the importance of respecting the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
"The media is an essential instrument, contributing towards greater awareness and protection of human rights through its reports on incidences of transgressions upon the rights of the people.
"Journalists and media personnel are often first on the scene, putting their safety and security on the line at times.
"Throughout the movement control order (MCO), the press and media played a pivotal role in providing accurate and updated information, whilst combating fake and false news which create paranoia and unnecessary anxiety over a developing crisis.
Suhakam said journalists and independent news producers must be protected to allow them to carry out their role, free from intimidation or retaliation.
It said while Malaysia showed significant improvement in Reporters Without Borders' 2020 World Press Freedom index, going up 22 places to 101 out of 180 countries, more could be done by the government.
The commission called on the government to establish an independent media council and to reform or abolish laws such as the Sedition Act 1948; the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984; Section 505b of the Penal Code; and Section 211 and 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
"The government should move to support the establishment of a media council, which aims to achieve a higher standard of journalism, whilst increasing public faith in the mass media.
"We reiterate that equal access to information, assurances on freedom of the press and responsible journalism, and the realisation of an independent media council will demonstrate Malaysia’s commitment to meet the ideals of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," it added.
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