2012 world press freedom day today. black. black to protest against the attack on journalists and camermen during the recent bersih 3.0.
|Syed Jaymal Zahiid | Oct 20, 08 1:55pm|
|The government has not given up on its intention to create a media council as another regulatory authority over the print media in particular, despite the long-held objections of journalists.
Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said today that the government has continued to consider this, and is also discussing a national media policy.
“The government is toying with the idea and looking at all questions pertaining to media ethics, professionalism and all that,” he told a press conference today.
“We have started to draft the policy and (establish the foundations) of the National Media Council. Don’t ask me when (it will be implemented). There are a lot of considerations, so we have to look at various aspects.”
Asked if the implementation of the council would lead to repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA), as sought by editors and journalists, the minister was non-committal.
“I don’t want to jump the gun. The council will require management from both sides but I would not go as far as repealing the PPPA. We’ll see what can be done,” he said.
More than 900 journalists had, in a two-part petition signed between May 1999 and 2001, urged the repeal of the licensing provision of the PPPA for a start.
They argued that this would enable the print media to play its role as a watchdog of the public interest. In return, the journalists volunteered self-regulation of the profession through an independent industry-managed body.
However, the government subsequently commissioned the Malaysian Press Institute – representing media companies but run with government funding – to draft enabling legislation to set up a media council under parliamentary supervision and funding.
Media practitioners strongly rejected the draft law, maintaining that nothing less than independent self-regulation is acceptable to the profession.
They have also insisted that any such move must be accompanied, at minimum, by simultaneous repeal of the PPPA licensing provision that controls the issuance of annual printing and publishing permits.The PPPA has been condemned by press-freedom activists as a key instrument of government control over the print media.
Criticism of the government and politicians can be silenced because the annual permits can be revoked or not renewed at any time by ministerial order and without means of judicial review.
Given that no assurance of a repeal has been forthcoming, the creation of a media council has been at a stalemate since a stakeholders’ meeting held in 2004.
Syed Hamid had earlier delivered a keynote speech at a colloquium on media policy, organised by the Asian Institute for Developing Communication.
He said that, due to the pluralistic nature of Malaysian society, the government has a responsibility to ensure that harmony between ethnic groups is preserved.
“We must always remember that the government has a responsibility to preserve national security and stability as these are vital to a country’s survival and prosperity,” he said.
“The problem arises when the media, in its quest to utilise its freedom as an unbiased channel of information, sensationalises reports with little or no nation-building value, which adversely affects peace and harmony of the nation.”
Activists, however, are of the view that the government cites this as a reason to maintain power.
Apart from the PPPA, they have also demanded the repeal or review of other restrictive laws that affect the media – the Official Secrets Act, Sedition Act and Internal Security Act (ISA), among these.
NOTE: please read the blog ‘berita dari gunung’ on the topic ‘malaysian media council: handcuffs or media freedom‘ for an interesting info on this topic, where the blogger had linked other bloggers and sites on this same issue.
Oct 22, 08 7:24pm
Malaysia’s press freedom ranking in free fall Oct 22, 08 7:24pm Malaysia crashed into the bottom quarter of 173 countries in the worldwide press freedom ranking index released today by Paris-based watchdog Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF, Reporters Without Borders). MCPX
In the latest 2008 ranking, Malaysia fell eight spots to 132. Last year, it was placed 124th while in 2006, it was at 92.
Iceland, Luxembourg and Norway share the No 1 spot, with United Kingdom (23), Japan (29) and United States (36).
southeast asian rsf ranking 2008According to the index, Malaysia was placed fifth among 10 Southeast Asian countries after Timor-Leste (65), Indonesia (111), Thailand (124), Cambodia (126).
“In the face of mounting criticism, the government of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi reacted with a crackdown,” lamented RSF, referring to several incidences last year.
It said that the mainstream press made no attempt at balance remarks by the authorities attacking the organisers of two major demonstrations last year which were led by election reform movement Bersih and Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).
“The Internal Security Ministry asked some media on three separate occasions in November not to report on unauthorised demonstrations.
“Thus a march on Nov 10 calling for free and transparent elections passed off without any coverage, apart from online, including by the daily Malaysiakini, which also revealed in June (2007) that the authorities had ordered radio and television not to allow too much airtime to the speeches of opposition leaders.”
Umno-linked NST ticked off
RSF also ticked off Umno-linked New Straits Times for abruptly halting the columns by two independent-minded writers.
“Officially for technical reasons, the columns written by Zainah Anwar, promoting the rights of women, and another by Amir Muhammad disappeared within five days or one another.
“Zainah had headlined her last piece, ‘Let’s give freedom a good press’. Amir Muhammad, a respected film-maker and writer, had broken one of the country’s taboos by rehabilitating communists who fought for independence in the 1940s.
jeff ooi and rocky bru screen shot lawsuit“He posted on his blog the uncut versions of his articles, which were regularly re-written by the daily’s management.”
The press freedom watchdog also said that the management and former managers of NST sued bloggers Jeff Ooi and Ahiruddin Attan for “defamation”, after they posted articles “demonstrating that some news and editorials in the daily lacked objectivity”.
Bloggers threatened by ISA
RSF added the attacks against bloggers continued last year.
“Abdullah had called bloggers ‘liars’ while (last) July, (then) law minister, Nazri Abdul Aziz, said the government would not hesitate to resort to the Internal Security Act (ISA) to punish them.”
raja petra and isa internal security act 230908Popular blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, who was eventually detained under ISA last month, was interrogated by the police in July last year after he posted criticism of the king.
“Nathaniel Tan, a blogger and member of the opposition PKR was held in custody for four days, apparently because of a link from his blog to a website hosting news termed as an ‘official secret’ relating to a corruption case implicating (then deputy) internal security minister, Johari Baharum.”
The press freedom watchdog also cited two cases of journalists being threatened, one of whom was beaten up by unknown men.
Photo-journalist R Raman of the Tamil-language Malaysia Nanban was left in a coma after being assaulted by two thugs in his office in Johor Baru.
Meanwhile, his colleague, M Nagarajan, received a phone call threatening to kill him if he continued to write articles about poor conditions in the schools.
NOTE: Also, please read Helen Ang’s ‘No. 132 in press freedom, jolly good’.
REMINDER: You have only 4 more days to sign the memorandum for media freedom.
Malaysiakini earlier reported that de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has threatened to quit over the continued detention of DAP MP Teresa Kok and blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin. He is highly critical of the old-style politics of creating fear.
In the dialogue that was held on June 1, 2008 between Zaid and journalists, Datuk Zaid had asked the media this: Dare you take on issues that are unpopular with the media owners. On the detention of Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng, Ziad is perplexed as how she would constitute a threat to national security. His stand on the matter of the continued detention of Teresa Kok and RPK speaks volumes about his commitment on law reform.
A few weeks ago Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi stated that the media should write the truth and there should be no fear in writing the truth. The arrest of Ms Tan will lead many to believe the Prime Minister truly cannot be trusted on his words.
Detention without trial is not an issue that can ever be taken lightly. It takes away the liberty of a human being. Indeed there may be circumstances under which the use of the ISA may be justified, as when it is a matter of dire national security, like terrorism. But to invoke this Act against a journalist who is merely reporting what she had witnessed is without doubt a cynical act of intimidation that deserves absolute derision. What is more maddening is that the man who had made the incendiary remarks in the first place remains scot free!
The arrest of Ms Tan is a new low in the administration of justice in Malaysia and a severe blow to the quest for media freedom.
The quick release of Ms Tan shows that the government came to realize it had miscalculated badly and people will not accept what has been done to Ms Tan. Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar’s explanation that Ms Tan was arrested to “ensure her safety” is bereft of any logic and not for the first time.
There has been outrage from various quarters but not much from the mainstream media itself. They must decry this blatant act of intimidation on journalists. This is not acceptable. Enough is enough.
Sign petition for Media Freedom at http://benar.org .
courtesy of malaysiakini. please do click on ‘read the rest of this entry’ to see many interesting charts.
(related link: PM to media: uphold the truth)
M’sians still ignorant of media freedom
Syed Jaymal Zahid
Sept 4, 08 4.46pm
News consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the media owners’ influence on the way news are being reported, an independent survey revealed today.
The survey, carried out jointly by media watchdog Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and opinion pollster Merdeka Centre, showed that 78 percent of those surveyed believed that media owners have “significant influence” over news.
The survey, which involved 1,203 randomly selected respondents aged 21 and above, was conducted by telephone from May 8 to 14.
“Thirty-nine percent identified the government, people or companies connected to the government as the owners of most media outlets,” Merdeka Centre research associate Leong Lai Ming told a press conference today.
“The survey also revealed that Malaysians were critically assessing the content of the local mainstream media, upon which the majority relied heavily as sources of information.”
According to the survey, only 35 percent of the respondents believed that the mainstream media were not reporting fairly.
Furthermore, only half of the respondents said the performance of the mainstream media according to six major indicators – ethical, variety of opinions included, variety of issues covered, objectivity, fairness and truthfulness – were met.
CIJ executive director V Gayathry, who was also at the press conference, said this reflected the poor confidence Malaysians have on the credibility of the mainstream media due to its close affiliation with the government.
For democracy to function properly, media freedom advocates like CIJ and others have often called for a clear separation between media organisations and the state.
“And media organisations must also learn to create their own code of conduct that is based on just and fair reporting and not place the burden of media reform totally on the government,” added Leong.
Govt or media responsible for media freedom?
Gayathry said the survey findings indicated that Malaysians do have mixed views on who is responsible in carrying out media reforms – some said it was the government, while others say it was the media organisations or the public.
In the survey, two-thirds had the impression that improving greater media independence was out of their hands, while 35 percent felt that the government played the most important role.
“Such sentiment matched even those from the Malaysian Bar, when during the Walk for Press Freedom event in June, its Human Rights Committee responded to (de facto) law minister Zaid Ibrahim by saying the state bears the primary burden of removing laws that have impinged freedom,” said the survey.
The Bar Council was then reacting to Zaid’s statement that it was part of the press’ responsibility to conduct reforms in industry.
Nevertheless, 30 percent of the respondents thought that it was the public itself that had the greater role to ensure that media independence exist in the country.
Little understanding on media freedom
The survey also found a lack of understanding among Malaysians regarding the concept of media freedom.
Despite having more than half the respondents agreeing that the media needs more independence, about half still believed that the government has the right to control media organisations.
Huge percentage of the respondents when asked why they thought the government should or should not have control over the media were not able to answer why they thought so.
“This is an issue, and this is why organisations like CIJ and other media rights groups must … educate the public on the issue,” stressed Leong.
The survey also revealed that the public has a very low recognition of the role of civil society groups when it comes to fighting for greater press freedom.
“This was particularly evident when the 2008 Memorandum on Media Freedom launched online on May 3 by three NGOs including CIJ only managed to garner 1,946 endorsees until now,” lamented the survey.
CIJ however was confident that the public was showing signs of progress when it came to inducing public awareness on the need for greater media freedom judging from the survey’s findings.
“Despite low level of recognition towards organisations working to improve media freedom, the public was open to the idea of media independence.
“This further showed that the stigma of equating supporting media independence to danger did not exist.
“Hence, it is in the interest of the public and the nation for civil society organisations such as CIJ to continue its work to further educate the public about media independence,” concluded the survey.
A Joint Merdeka Day Message
30 August 2008
Independence means that the nation is free from any imposed political domination; citizens are sovereign and are masters of their own destiny. For that to be true, they must at least be able to think freely, express and exchange opinion, and, obtain and disseminate information without fear or favour.
As we celebrate the 51st anniversary of our Merdeka tomorrow and the 45th anniversary of Malaysia’s establishment in two weeks’ time, we should be celebrating our political adulthood. We should be proud that as citizens, we are a truly sovereign people, ruled by nothing more than the collective free will of our citizenship. We invite all Malaysians to ponder before lighting fireworks and joining the parade: Are we truly free? Are we truly sovereign?
Are we free? Just on the eve of Merdeka Day, one of Malaysia’s most popular news portal, Malaysia Today, was blocked by internet service providers under the instruction of the Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). This instruction denied millions of Malaysians, who have shunned the mainstream media, their primary information source. The MCMC has cited the Section 263 of the Communications and Multimedia Act, 1998 to force ISPs to use their best endeavour “to prevent his/her facilities from being used to violate any law in the country”. It is unfortunate that MCMC acted without Malaysia Today and its editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin being convicted or proven in court of any criminal offence. By invoking the block, the MCMC contravenes the government’s promise of no censorship and less regulation in the internet, when the multi-media super corridor was launched in 1998. It has also broken the law as Section 3 of the CMA states clearly that “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting the censorship of the Internet.” So, what has produced MCMC to toe the political line rather than adhere to the law?
Are we free? Just two weeks before Merdeka Day, the Home Ministry decided that we cannot read two more books, on top of at least 1443 books that were banned since 1971. One of the two latest banned books is a volume titled “Muslim Women and the Challenge of Islamic Extremism” authored by international experts and edited by renowned Malaysian sociologist, Prof Norani Othman. The book was published three years ago, so why the ban only now? Did the Home Ministry censorship board take three years to understand its content? In fact, are they capable of reading and understanding an academic book when they have not even produce a book review to pinpoint its flaws? Can we be a free nation when bureaucrats whose reading ability is questionable are deciding what we can and cannot read? Their power to curb freedom of expression stems from the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) which requires all periodicals to apply for annual renewable permits, which can be revoked and suspended by the Minister at anytime at his absolute discretion. In 1987, under Operasi Lalang eight newspapers were suspended. Operasi Lalang also saw the arbitrary detention of 106 socio-political activists.
Are we free? When questioning of government policies or the judicial process by citizens can land one in prison under the Sedition Act, 1948, when truth cannot be a defense against charges, where “seditious tendency” are broadly and vaguely defined, when newspapers can be suspended for allegedly containing seditious matter (Section 9), what’s left of our public space to discuss issues that matter most and are therefore often termed “sensitive”?
Are we free? When there are 66 persons still detained arbitrarily and indefinitely without trial for opposing the government’s policies under the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960, when the Minister can subjectively ban any publications deemed to be “prejudicial to the national interest, public order, or security of Malaysia”, and his/her decisions cannot be reviewed by the judiciary. Are we free from the danger of arbitrary judgment of one politician? And, are we free when the very same repressive colonial laws that suppressed peoples’ struggles in the pre-Merdeka era are still continued and used randomly by the present government even after Merdeka?
Are we free? When citizens have no freedom of information to learn about public policies and decision-making process, when politicians and bureaucrats can easily deny public access to details of lucrative contracts and concessions, justified under the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA), is it any wonder that corruption and power abuse become rampant? When we pay taxes and yet do not have the right to know how the money is spent, are we really the boss of the government? Or have we, the rakyat, instead become slaves to the very people we have elected?
Unfortunately, we are not free given the flaws and shortcomings in the CMA, PPPA, Sedition Act, ISA, OSA and other media-related laws. We will continue to be enslaved until we become truly politically free and democratic. We had merely replaced foreign colonial masters with domestic ones who rule over us by insisting that we are incapable of thinking and making our own judgment.
A true national independence is, therefore, overdue. It is possible only if all the media-related laws are put under thorough reviews and after taking on board the concerns of all Malaysians, regardless of economic interest, social-cultural background and political affiliation. A parliamentary select committee on media law reform must, therefore, be made a priority in our quest for independence, democracy and good governance. Calls to celebrate or to substantiate our independence by any political coalitions, are hollow if without a concrete commitment and roadmap to media law reform.
We call upon all Malaysians to press for the demand of media law reform by endorsing the 2008 Memorandum on Media Freedom on www.benar.org. The campaign for media law reform is extended to 27 October 27 2008, the anniversary of 1987 Operasi Lalang. Until we can ensure the freedoms of citizens and the media, Merdeka is not achieved. Let us fight for our second independence, this time from domestic authoritarianism – Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!
A Joint statement by
1. Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)
2. Benar for Free and Fair Media (Benar)
3. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
4. Civil Rights Committee, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)
5. Civil Society Initiative for Parliamentary Reform (CSI@Parliament)
6. Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI)
7. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section (KLSCAH-YS)
8. Malaysia Youth and Student Democratic Movement (DEMA)
9. National Alliance of Bloggers (All-Blogs)
10. People’s Parliament
11. Empower (Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti, Selangor)
12. Sister in Islam (SIS)
13. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
14. Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
This statement was initiated by Benar and WAMI. For details, please contact Wong Chin Huat (019-3502823) or Maria Chin Abdullah (0133422931)
By Johann Foo
Just when the people running the show at Proton would wish the name MV Agusta (“MVA”) will stay buried forever it raises its ugly head yet again.
This time we have our former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir, jumping on the news via his blog and claiming vindication for their decision to foray into MVA. Needless to say, Tun’s comments were reported by Malaysiakini verbatim when they updated their report entitled “MV Agusta – Proton sells for RM5, Harley buys for RM350 million”.
When we talk about a fair media, it must also extend to the online media; bloggers and online news portals, especially an outfit like Malaysiakini that many regard as anti-government. People generally see the mainstream boys as the guilty of bias and, quite frankly, there is not much to disagree over this popular view. But are Malaysiakini and Tun Mahathir playing by the rules we believe in?
Malaysiakini today reported that more than 100 journalists covering the ongoing Parliamentary sitting are staging a boycott after the Parliament administration restricted media access to the lobby, and barricaded the area. The journalists were outraged and stunned by the latest ruling which resulted in the entire lobby being cordoned off, apparently on security grounds. (Picture from Malaysiakini)
During the dialogue on June 1, 2008 with journalists at the National Press Club, Datuk Zaid had challenged journalists to get their act together and do a proper job. In an interview with Malaysiakini a couple of weeks ago, I was asked how I felt towards his comments. My reply was that whilst the journalists embark on pushing the envelope, Zaid and his colleagues in Parliament must also pull together in the same direction or media freedom will remain a dream.
Sunday, June 15 2008
by A. Asohan
It’s all very well to gripe about the lack of a free and fair press. Question is: Have you done anything to deserve one?
THERE’S a piece of wisdom whose truth is so self-evident that it’s been handed down the generations in various forms and via different media.
There are different aspects to this truism, and even Michael Jackson sang something about the man in the mirror.
I understand it thusly: Before you blame others for your woes, take a good look at yourself.
Nowhere was this form of self-denial more evident than in the talk on press freedom by Minister’s in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, organised by the National Press Club, the National Union of Journalists and the Centre for Independent Journalism (www.cijmalaysia.org/) two weeks ago.
The talk was followed by a “walk for press freedom” coordinated by the parties above, as well as the Writer Alliance for Media Independence, Benar for Free and Fair Media and the National Bloggers Alliance.
More than 150 journalists, civil society advocates, non-governmental organisation representatives and interested bloggers had squeezed into the National Press Club for Zaid’s speech.
He started off with a courageous – in my opinion at least – and relevant attack on the disenchanted crowd arrayed before him: Don’t blame the Government for everything. What have you done to push for reforms? How many of you are willing to risk jail or unemployment for your principles?
He soldiered on, despite some boos and catcalls from some journalists and ex-journalists – a tad ironic considering this is a profession whose code of ethics includes giving every opinion, perspective or viewpoint due consideration and the right to be aired.
It’s as if we had all forgotten that much of the malaise facing the media in Malaysia can be laid squarely at our feet.
The minister was right. We’re not a united front. We’re a bunch of professionals who compete against each other, sometimes fractiously. Sure, we may come together for select issues and at certain times, but when we go back to our newsrooms, we’re out to scoop each other.
And we’re a bunch of different individuals too. Some are journalists because it was the only job we could get, others because we wanted to serve society, a few just drifted into it, a small few because we felt the “call”, some because it seemed a good idea at the time, and quite a number saw it as a stepping stone.
We all have different views of our profession, and practise it with varying degrees of adherence to ethics and principles. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
There are, of course, damned good journalists in Malaysia, and they’ll tell you tales of reporters being sidelined because they were considered loose cannons, others being put in “cold storage” to appease corporate and political masters, some being scolded for wasting their time on “dangerous” stories.
We’re blaming the Government for all of this?
Let’s clean up our act first, then we can talk.
But there was a bit of spin-doctoring that Sunday. There are laws in this country that adversely affect the media in this country. Laws that, even if you belief in the need for them, have been inconsistently applied and abused.
They are of course the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Internal Security Act, the Sedition Act and these days, the Communications and Multimedia Act.
Zaid said that if these laws were to be reviewed or even repealed, the media better have something in mind to replace them, else there would be anarchy.
I beg to differ. First, Zaid is too intelligent not to know that “anarchy” (from the Greek anarchia or “without a ruler”) in its original meaning doesn’t equate to “disorder”.
Second, the Government shouldn’t get a “get of jail” card here either. These laws have been misused or abused by people in government far too much and for far too long.
Just as much as we journalists should not blame the Government for everything, or look to it to resolve our woes, the Government should not deflect from its own responsibility here either.
As a few participants pointed out at the talk, there have been attempts by the media for reform, but they’ve fallen on deaf ears.
The media, the Government … who else can we point a finger at here?
How about you, the people of Malaysia? There is some truth to the saying that the media acts as a mirror on society, and that it can only reflect the ideals and aspirations of the society it serves.
For 50 years, you folks kept returning to power, and almost always with a two-thirds majority, the parties that have enacted and implemented these laws. By doing so, you gave your tacit approval.
And cynical journalists would be quick to point out that the Malaysian electorate usually starts demanding reforms only in times of great economic turmoil, which seems to come in 10-year cycles. When stomachs start to rumble, as it were.
There are many journalists who wonder if a free and independent media is what the Malaysian public really wants. There are some who have quit the profession because they felt betrayed by the very society they were trying to serve.
Zaid said he was willing to continue engaging the media. The organisers of the June 1 “talk and walk” said they would continue to push for reforms. There is discussion of a parliamentary select committee being formed to look into the issue.
All of us – the press, the powers-that-be and the public – are stakeholders here. But unless we’re willing to look at ourselves and admit to our own culpability first, we won’t be able to change ourselves, let alone transform the media landscape here.
A. Asohan, New Media Editor at The Star, will try to calm down and clam up now … but no promises!
On June 1 2008, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, the de facto law minister taunted journalists who attended the dialogue with him at the National Press Club with this question, “….do you take up an unpopular issue with your news-owner?”
Picture courtesy of Malaysiakini
Benar hopes the mainstream news editors will rise to Zaid’s challenge and also not ignore other issues that people want answers to. While this may take time given the lackadaisical attitude of the editors (exemplified by Zaid when he noted that only one senior editor had bothered to attend the gathering at the NPC) and the uncertainty how far and fast the envelope may be pushed, Benar, which is not subject to such conditions, would certainly raise issues as it see fits on behalf of ordinary Malaysians.
When Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became the 5th Prime Minister of Malaysia in 2003, he had promised quite a lot. Perhaps no other promise had endeared more to the Malaysian public than the promotion of a culture of zero-tolerance on corruption and the fight against this menace without fear or favour. On March 8, 2008 the public delivered a stinging rebuke to the Barisan Nasional government for its failure in this and many other things. Without transparency in government, the fight against corruption was always going to fail.