Media’s vital role acknowledged

Keeping to the facts: Media organisations are not only responsible for providing accurate and transparent information, but also for protecting society from fake news.

PETALING JAYA: The government is committed to upholding press freedom while keeping it in line with the principles of truth and justice, says Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

“The media does not only have the role of disseminating transparent information but also in protecting society from false news that can threaten the stability and harmony of the country, ” he said in a press statement in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day 2020 yesterday.

Saifuddin said he was proud of Malaysia’s achievement in climbing up 22 places to 101 out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom index.

“We need to strive – not only to rank higher in international indexes – but more importantly, to have the press in a participatory role with other stakeholders in the country such as the government, businesses, civil societies and other nation builders, ” he said.

Saifuddin also expressed his gratitude to journalists in the country, whom he said were the main source for Malaysians for news and information that was both factual and up to date.

“It is our duty to uphold freedom for the press to do their job well while holding on to the principles and ethics of journalism, ” he said.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) called for protection to be in place for media practitioners in the country.

Suhakam said this year’s theme of “Journalism without Fear or Favour” highlighted the importance of respecting and protecting the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

“Media is an essential instrument, contributing towards greater awareness, and protection of human rights by its reporting on incidences of transgressions upon the rights of the people; thereby obligating relevant parties to respond and prevent such occurrences.

“Journalists and media personnel are often first on the scene, at times putting their safety and security on the line.

“Throughout the Covid-19 movement control order (MCO) period, press and media played a pivotal role in reporting on accurate and updated information while combating fake and false news which create paranoia and unnecessary anxiety on a developing crisis.

“Protection needs to be in place to allow journalists and independent (news) producers to carry out their role, free from fear of intimidation, reprisals or retaliation, ” the commission said in a statement yesterday.

Suhakam said while Malaysia showed significant improvement in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom index, more could be done by the government to enhance the role of the press in the country.

The commission called for the government to set up an independent Media Council in the country, as well as to reform or abolish laws that could be used against freedom of speech 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 purposefully to support the establishment of the Media Council, which aims to improve and achieve a higher standard of journalism while 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 said.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan also wished the country’s media a “Happy World Press Freedom Day”.

Takiyuddin said the press in the country was the “gatekeeper” for truth in terms of information and news.

“Acting as frontliners, journalists are responsible for reporting news that is true, that comes from trusted sources, and are not biased in their reporting.

“You are the gatekeepers for us. Without you, we will be thirsting for information, ” he said.

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