Free the media from 'constrictions'

30 May 2023 09:34am
From left: Johan, Chamil and Mohamad Fauzi - FILEPIC
From left: Johan, Chamil and Mohamad Fauzi - FILEPIC

SHAH ALAM - The government needs to give the media more freedom by reviewing related legal provisions that are no longer relevant today.

National Journalism Laureate Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's commitment and promise in ensuring media practitioners in this country are given complete freedom is very welcomed.

But he said in order to realise the promise, the government needs to create an appropriate ecosystem.

"One of the initial conditions is to make sure any laws and provisions that are deemed inappropriate, irrelevant and outdated need to be reviewed or possibly repealed.

"For example, I believe it is important to review the Printing Presses and Publishing Act 1984 and demolish it as it is no longer relevant now.

"Similarly, some provisions in the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988 need to be reviewed to examine if the Act restricts media freedom.

"That is the first pre-condition that needs to be done to ensure journalists can work independently without being restricted by the government," he told Sinar yesterday.

In conjunction with National Journalists' Day (Hawana) 2023, it was reported that the Prime Minister had insisted that local media practitioners are fully independent and should not practice self-censorship in criticising the government.

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Anwar also said that he doesn't want media practitioners to continue the previous practice of praising and flattering the government while the opposition was denied the right to speak.

Commenting further, Johan added that although the level of media freedom in Malaysia is getting better compared to other countries, it does not mean that it has reached a level to be proud of.

"In my opinion, it's important for the government as well as ministers and senior government officials to understand the role of the media. The media is not a platform for government propaganda," he said.

At the same time, he described the establishment of Tabung Kasih@Hawana, announced by Anwar, with an initial fund of RM1 million as a commendable and meaningful initiative for media practitioners who are in need.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) chief executive officer Datuk Dr Chamil Wariya said journalists need to grab the opportunity and be brave in being the watchman of the three branches of power in this country namely tghe executive, legislative and judiciary.

He also wanted the government to fulfill the promise of giving full freedom to the media by creating a new legal framework to facilitate the flow of policy matters information related to public interest.

"This means that the government has to review the Official Secrets Act 1972 (Act 88) which encrypts information obtained from the government.

"The Freedom of Information Act needs to replace the official secrets act. So that there is a provision in the law that allows journalists to get information about government decisions or policies based on issues of public interest," he said.

Gabungan Kelab Media Malaysia (GKMM) president Mohamad Fauzi Ishak said the club welcomed the assurance given by the Unity Government led by Anwar to ensure media practitioners in this country are given freedom in carrying out their duties.

"We are aware of the challenges experienced by media practitioners in this digital era whereas they now require cooperation from all parties including government agencies," he said.

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