The anti-press laws like Printing Presses and Publications Act, Official Secrets Act, Sedition Act and ISA should be suspended during the first three-year trial run of the Malaysian Media Council to usher in a free and independent media
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) are fully justified in being skeptical and worried that the proposed Malaysian Media Council would end up as another government watchdog body to further tighten control on individual journalists and editors which could only worsen the deplorable state of press freedom in the country.
The greatest flaw of the Malaysian Media Council is the utter absence of the concept to create the conditions for a free and independent press, as it only seeks to ensure “ethical and professional journalism” within the context of the present unfree press – which is actually a contradiction of terms!
Malaysia does not need a national media council to make journalists better and more competent media professionals to ensure that Malaysia remains at the bottom of the world league of countries with dismal record of press freedom, but to transform the media landscape in the country so that Malaysia is internationally recognized in the world as among the leading countries where a free, independent and responsible press can flourish.
Malaysians, whether the government or the people, should feel ashamed at the country’s dismal press freedom record. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders rated Malaysia as No. 110 out of 139 nations surveyed in its first worldwide index of press freedom – placing Malaysia behind at least 75 countries which are economically more backward but more progressive in respect of press freedom, not only other Southeast countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia, but even African and Middle Eastern countries like Congo, Mozambique, Burundi, Zambia, Chad, Turkey, Egypt, Yemen, Haiti, Ethiopia and Rwanda.
A sense of shame must be the first step for the government, the media and the people to demand a better press freedom record for the country, in the era of globalization, liberalization and information and communications technology.
Malaysia should have a national media council as an important first step to establish a free, independent and responsible press and not to more effectively entrench the repressive conditions which have kept Malaysia in the 30 bottom-ranked countries on press freedom in the world.
DAP proposes that anti-press laws like Printing Presses and Publications Act, Official Secrets Act, Sedition Act and Internal Security Act should be suspended during the first three-year trial run of the Malaysian Media Council to usher in a free and independent media – which will make the Malaysian Media Council relevant and not a stranger to press freedom.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman