Gov’t gives assurance on media freedom – Fahmi Fadzil

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9: The government will continue to defend media freedom and this assurance has been given by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, says Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil.

Fahmi said under the present government, not a single journalist or media practitioner had been arrested by police and no newspapers or media organisations had been shut down by the authorities.

“As a sign of the government’s commitment and support to continue enhancing media freedom in the country and helping media practitioners deal with challenges, the government in principle has agreed to the proposed establishment of the Malaysian Media Council (MMC) as a self-regulatory body via related acts.

“The proposed establishment of MMC has considered the role of the council to defend the freedom of media in the country to disseminate information. Eight meetings have been held with the pro tem committee since January 2020,” he said.

Fahmi said this during Minister’s Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat today when replying to a question from Ahmad Fadhli Shaari (PN-Pasir Mas) on the government’s assurance that it would not abuse the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to restrict freedom of the media and speech, especially regarding social media content.

Fahmi said MCMC had discharged its responsibilities and functions according to the provisions of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (Act 588), and one of its main responsibilities was to ensure that online platforms were not used for committing any acts that were against the law or attempts to breach the law.

“MCMC has the authority and obligation to take regulatory action against the dissemination of false information as well as offensive, threatening or defamatory content. MCMC’s actions are in line with its responsibilities under Act 588 and are not meant to restrict media freedom.

“They are taken to ensure that information is disseminated in a responsible and accurate manner without involving defamation and elements of hate, as well as to protect the integrity and honour of the constitutional monarchy and democratic institution from any attempts to create hatred and insults,” he said.

Fahmi also reminded all media practitioners to continue adhering to the ethics of journalism and the Content Code which provides clear guidelines on content, in line with the act.

He said by observing the code, media practitioners could ensure that their reports were made in a responsible manner and avoid breaching the limits of freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, Fahmi said he would hold discussions with the Information Department about an appeal that Harakah was expected to file regarding the withdrawal of media accreditation for its journalists.

“I was told that Harakah will send a letter of appeal and we welcome it. The emphasis here is the ethics of journalism and the prime minister has also said he is prepared to forgive. So no problem,” he said when replying to a supplementary question from Ahmad Fadhli on the appeal submitted by Harakah two days ago.

The Information Department was reported to have withdrawn the media accreditation card of the Harakah journalist who allegedly published an article featuring a photo of Anwar with the Israeli flag.