The Malaysian government announced yesterday that it will examine and amend the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA), also known as Act 588 to curb unethical journalism.
Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil (Lembah Pantai-PH) mentioned in the Dewan Rakyat that Act 588 will be amended to improve its regulatory framework, particularly in terms of network security and reliability.
FYI, Act 588 is a law that regulates the communication and multimedia industries in Malaysia.
The Act provides a legal framework for the development of these industries and seeks to ensure that they operate in a fair and transparent manner.
Healthy news environment or impeding freedom of speech?
While journalism watchdog organisations like the Centre for Independent Journalism applaud the general idea of encouraging a healthier news environment, its executive director, Wathshlah Naidu, told Coconuts that they do not believe that stricter laws and policies will achieve such fair and unbiased journalism.
“It is indeed critical to ensure that any attempts to amend the CMA, is to strengthen, and not undermine freedom of speech or media freedom in Malaysia. We urge the Minster to ensure a multi-stakeholder engagement is undertaken in the review of CMA, with this principle in mind.”
Wathshlah believes it is more important than ever to move forward with the establishment of the Malaysian Media Council as a transparent and self-regulatory body for the industry in order to uphold the highest ethical standards and code of conduct.
“This will provide the necessary dispute resolution process that meets the needs of the industry as well as place the public’s interest at the heart of any resolution.”
Saying no to mis and disinformation
In the meantime, she said CIJ recommends that the ministry collaborate with existing initiatives, including Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), to improve independent inoculating measures and fact-check mechanisms, in order to effectively debunk false and misleading narratives before they become viral.
“Moreover, the government should focus its efforts on media and digital literacy, and dissemination of public information countering the alleged misinformation and disinformation, and not merely focus on the use of law or regulation.”
She said the 15th General Elections media coverage showed that social media platforms were used as a tool for political gains through the dissemination of disinformation and hate speech.
“Hence, the government should continue strategic engagement with social media platforms, and with multi-stakeholder experts, to strengthen and ensure an effective response in situations of disinformation and hate speech,” she added.
The law has been used against journalists
Meanwhile, The Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia (FCCM) said it is concerned with the minister’s stance on amending the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 to tackle unethical journalism.
In a statement to Coconuts, it said that despite the assurance that the ministry would not use it to impinge upon the freedom of speech and the press, the law has in the past been used against journalists.
“We believe that slander if it is deemed to be such, should be countered by facts and not punitive action.”
“We therefore call for closer and more transparent communications between the government and the Malaysian press community.”
ALSO CHECK OUT: