Gov’t mulls national media policy

27 October, 2008

Gov’t mulls national media policy

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.


syed hamid albar putrajaya pc 310708 02Home 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.

press freedomThey 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.

Unchanged reasoning

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.


Malaysia’s press freedom ranking in free fall

23 October, 2008

Oct 22, 08 7:24pm

Malaysia’s press freedom ranking in free fall

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.