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Media Council Bill will be table in Parliament in June – Fahmi

PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian Media Council Bill will be tabled in Parliament in June following Cabinet approval today, communications minister Fahmi Fadzil said.

“Today’s Cabinet meeting has decided the bill should be tabled in Parliament in the June session. It will take some time (to fine-tune) because it involves discussions with various stakeholders.

“There will be no overlap between the council and the information department’s code of ethics because the code serves as a guideline for media accreditation issuance,” he told reporters at a press conference here, adding that the engagement session with the pro tem committee had been completed.

The bill aims to outline a code of conduct and dispute resolution procedure for public complaints against the media, and establish a budget for the council, Bernama reported.

Yesterday, Fahmi launched a new version of the government’s code of ethics for journalists, replacing the previous one introduced 35 years ago and published by the Malaysian Press Institute.

The code is used by the information department as its main reference in issuing media accreditation.

Fahmi said the code was not redundant, amid the plan to establish the media council, adding that it was important for the code to be updated to ensure it stayed relevant, such as by removing the word “communism”.

“We know communism no longer exists in Malaysia, so those are among the things that have been renewed or corrected in the 2024 version,” he said, emphasising that it was still the same document published in 1989.

He called on members of the media to go through the document to avoid confusion.

The new code comprises eight key ethics, including that journalists must be responsible, transparent, fair in disseminating information, not influenced by personal interests, deliver legitimate information, respect the privacy and confidentiality of their sources, understand the laws governing the media, and prioritise their journalistic skills.

Fahmi said the code was drawn up with the involvement of journalists and media organisations to guarantee their freedom to report news.

However, Fahmi’s announcement was met with strong opposition from media rights group Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) and legal advocacy group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL).

“A code of ethics for journalists, especially when it determines who receives media credentials, and thus access, should not be dictated by the government.

“This represents a form of state control. The code should be developed and overseen by the media,” Geramm said.

LFL director Zaid Malek said the code was yet another form of control the government exerted over the media, in addition to other draconian laws in existence, and labelled it a revival of the short-lived Anti-Fake News Act.

Both groups called for the establishment of an independent Malaysia Media Council to ensure a media free from government interference.

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