Charter 2000-Aliran views with deep concern Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin’s renewed insistence in pushing for the establishment of a media council in Malaysia.
As we have stated categorically before, we view the setting up of such a media council as an added layer of state control over the media – as long as undemocratic laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Official Secrets Act, and the Internal Security Act are not repealed.
In fact, pushing for a media council – without considering the need to repeal these laws – may be interpreted as an ingenious way for the government to side-step calls to repeal these draconian media-related laws.
If it is true that a media council could prevent media organisations from being closed down as a result of expensive legal suits, what guarantee is there that these media outfits will not be closed down or suspended by the Internal Security Ministry instead? Won’t such closures also result in immense financial losses for the media organisations concerned?
As long as there are overpowering laws that govern and shape the mainstream media in the country, a media council would be reduced to a mere talk shop or a warehouse for media complaints.
Obviously, media freedom and freedom of expression are important public interest issues. We therefore urge the government to include not just the journalistic fraternity but also press freedom activists and other interested parties in civil society in any future discussions on the media council.
Dr Mustafa K Anuar & Anil Netto
Coordinators, Charter 2000-Aliran
26 July 2006