Select Committee on Media Law Reform

1st June, 2008

Media Law Reform to Complete Decolonization

Benar, CIJ, WAMI and All-Blogs congratulate the 150 journalists, bloggers and members of the public who walked from Merdeka Square to National Press Club (NPC) and later from the NPC to the square this morning to make a point: the nation’s decolonization is not complete until the media is free.

We call upon the federal government to heed the public’s call for media law reform by setting up a parliamentary select committee for a comprehensive reform involving at least five legislations: the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act (OSA), Internal Security Act (ISA) and Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA).

The select committee is a core demand in a five-month campaign beginning May 3rd and ending September 16, which includes the Walk for Media Freedom this morning. The demand was first made by 37 civil society groups in 2006.

Dato’ Zaid Ibrahim, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department has unexpectedly demanded the journalist fraternity and civil society to prepare the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the select committee.

For all other select committees set up so far, on rape laws, national integration and integrity, the stakeholders have never been asked to prepare the TOR and this has been perceived as the government’s job.

We are pleasantly surprised by the generous invitation and will seek the collaboration of related parties like NUJ and Bar Council to prepare the TOR together.

We however do agree with the minister’s call for the journalist fraternity to put their act together and not just blame the repressive laws for infringing on media freedom, when he met with journalists, bloggers and members of public at NPC this morning, between the walks.

We believe the mainstream media have the professional obligation to advance the cause of media law reform by facilitating public debate and discussion.

Notwithstanding this, the government must both recognize the public as a legitimate stakeholder and engage all stakeholders to reform media laws.

We call upon all Malaysians to endorse our Memorandum at http://benar.org/memo/ which calls for the abovementioned select committee, the shelving of PPPA before its abolition and the enactment of freedom of information laws at federal and state levels.

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