Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) and other groups of journalists have released draft proposals for a media council of Malaysia and a code of conduct for public comment.
Every year on 3 May, we mark the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.
Following promises of reforms to archaic laws which have long stifled freedom of the press, Malaysia’s press freedom index has moved up 22 spots to rank 123rdamong 180 countries ranked by international watchdog Reporters Sans Frontiers.
Beyond the improved rankings, Malaysian media practitioners continue to face new challenges under the new Pakatan Harapan administration.
In terms of economic pressure, there were media practitioners who lost their jobs after companies funded by individuals or political parties linked to the previous administration ceased operations or engaged in a downsizing exercise.
For the ones who remained in the profession, it was short-lived euphoria to celebrate promises of reforms, as there were those who made such promises but failed to truly understand the meaning of press freedom.
Governments can change but the media’s function as force providing checks and balances should always be strengthened and respected. Since taking over federal power, altercations between the media and those who do not understand how the media operates has happened on numerous occasions.
When faced with backlash due to their own statements, the media are accused of spinning sensational elements or worse, having a hidden agenda to launch personal attacks against an individual.
It is most regrettable if in the era of a new Malaysia, there remain to ‘voices’ out to restrict the media’s role or to influence reports from any media agencies as a way to protect their personal interests or the interests of an individual.
On this occasion, Geramm would also like to celebrate the spirit of solidarity shown by all our friends, in the face of challenges in our daily duties.
Regardless of our media organisation’s background, the realisation that we all have the same duties has rallied support for efforts to set up a Malaysian media council.
In line with the efforts, Geramm, the National Union of Journalists, the Institute of Journalists, the Sabah Journalists Association, the Federation of Sarawak Journalists Association, the Kuching Division Journalists Association and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia have released draft proposals for a media council of Malaysia and a code of conduct.
The proposals representing the above organisations that came together as a Journalists Alliance are currently available here and is open for comments from fellow media professionals and the public until 15 May 2019, after which the final proposal will be submitted to the relevant authorities. Comments via email can be sent to email@example.com
Geramm once again reiterate our stand that the setting-up of a Malaysian media council will be the best platform to resolve altercations involving a third party with any media agencies.
With representation from media practitioners, media owners and other stakeholders, it is hoped that a Malaysian media council will pave the way towards the publication of more reports which are of public interest.
Self-regulation based on a journalism code of ethics should be the catalyst towards a new media landscape in a new Malaysia.
On that note, firstly, Geramm urges all journalists and media workers to uphold principles of ethical journalism as a way of protecting our professionalism and credibility.
The principles and ethics of journalism must be held paramount above any political leanings or other personal considerations to ensure our industry remains relevant and the most accurate information is delivered to readers or viewers.
Secondly, we humbly seek the support of readers, viewers, listeners, civil society and all Malaysians in the struggle to uphold press freedom in Malaysia.
Thirdly, to the government and authorities, we seek recognition as not only a medium to deliver information, but also as a force providing checks and balances in a functioning democracy.
Last but not least, we would like to thank all parties that have all this while contributed to the press freedom struggle not only in Malaysia but around the world.
In solidarity. Happy World Press Freedom Day!