Time is right for media council

KUALA LUMPUR: It is high time for a Malaysian Media Council (MMC) to be set up to elevate the image of the media industry in the country and to act as a regulating body to strengthen its credibility.

Veteran journalist Tan Sri Johan Jaafar, in proposing the council's establishment, said this was necessary to address complaints on unfair and unbalanced reporting as well as monitoring journalism ethics.

"The MMC will also among other things, come up with a media accountability system to define and monitor the broad definition of fake news.

"It will also ensure that the media and practitioners' rights are given enough attention," he said at the inaugural National Journalist Day (Hawana), here, today, which was attended by over 800 media practitioners.

The former Media Prima Berhad chairman also suggested that caretaker Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, who was present to launch the event, increase his consultation with the media on matters pertaining policies and acts that may restrict media freedom.

Bernama general manager Datuk Zulkefli Salleh said discussions to form the council has been going on for 50 years and that the time was now about right for it came to fruition.

"However we will look into many aspects especially the development of print and electronic media to ensure that it is appropriate for our aspirations," he said.

theSun managing editor Freddie Ng was all for the council but cautioned that if such a council did exist, it should only be exclusive to media practitioners.

Later, Najib announced the gazetting of the controversial Anti-Fake News Bill into law, saying it has been consented by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V earlier today.

"I would like to inform all of you that a while ago, I was told by the (caretaker) Minister in the Prime Minister's Department that the act has been consented by the Agong and gazetted effective today, April 11," he said.

The Bill was passed by the Dewan Rakyat on April 2, and the Dewan Negara a day later, amid backlash from the opposition and rights groups, fearing it would be used to curb media freedom and suppress dissenting voices against the government.

However, Najib assured that the newly gazetted law would not infringe on the rights and freedom of media practitioners.

Najib, who is also Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman, said the law was especially important as the country draws closer to the 14th General Election (GE14), calling it "the silly season".

"Stories and news that are unfounded and sometimes do not make sense, when they are disseminated, they are being swallowed as the blind truth," he said.