Provide clear mandate for media council once Bill is tabled, govt told

  • Nation
  • Friday, 23 Feb 2024

PETALING JAYA: The tabling of the Malaysian Media Council Bill must have a clear mandate for the council and definition of its role, says Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) executive director Wathshlah G. Naidu.

Wathshlah called on the government to adopt the recommendations by the pro-tem committee assigned to establish the council, to allow it to play an effective role as an authority that sets the standards in the local media industry.

ALSO READ: Malaysian Media Council Bill expected to be tabled in June

“This mandate should provide the council with the ability to establish standards regarding the media.

“Furthermore, its role in setting up an independent dispute resolution mechanism needs to be defined and instituted within this mandate.

“The council's role should be grounded in international human rights and democratic values. Its ultimate function should be to promote, protect and defend media freedom in Malaysia,” she said in a statement on Friday (Feb 23).

Wathshlah said the Cabinet’s approval of the council is a step in the right direction, setting a hopeful precedent for the tabling of the Bill in the June meeting of Parliament.

She said the council should also be independent with multiple stakeholders.

“The council can represent the voices of practitioners in the media industry by ensuring the inclusion and involvement of multiple stakeholders, including media owners/publishers, journalists and other media workers, civil society and academia,” she added.

As such, Wathshlah added that the MMC must be adequately resourced, with public funding channelled through the Finance Ministry.

ALSO READ: Media council should come before journalists' code of ethics, says Lawyers for Liberty

She also urged the government to reform archaic and repressive laws that undermine media freedom in Malaysia.

This included an immediate moratorium on the use of repressive laws like the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, the Official Secrets Act 1972, the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, and proceeding with an urgent review to either amend or repeal those laws.

“Proceeding this way will also go beyond the usual rhetoric or provisions in the Bill and guarantee media reforms and a commitment to uphold our constitutional rights.

“It is CIJ’s hope that these considerations are taken into account and executed to the utmost. CIJ urges the government to continue to involve the pro-tem committee in the finalisation of the Bill as well as ensure constructive engagement with the media and civil society organisations as it moves towards tabling the Bill in June,” she said.

On Wednesday (Feb 21), Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil announced that the Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament in June after getting approval from the Cabinet.

The Bill aims to outline a code of conduct and dispute resolution procedure for public complaints against the media and establish a budget for the council.

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