Media Law Reform to Complete Decolonization

This is our response to Zaid’s call on the TOR of the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee on Media Law Reform.

CIJ, WAMI, Benar and All-Blogs congratulate the 150 journalists, bloggers and members of the public who walked from Merdeka Square to National Press Club (NPC) and later from the NPC to the square this morning to make a point: the nation’s decolonization is not complete until the media is free.

We call upon the federal government to heed the public’s call for media law reform by setting up a parliamentary select committee for a comprehensive reform involving at least five legislations: the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act (OSA), Internal Security Act (ISA) and Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA).

The select committee is a core demand in a five-month campaign beginning May 3rd and ending September 16th, which includes the walks for media freedom this morning. The demand was first made by 37 civil society groups in 2006.

Dato’ Zaid Ibrahim, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department has unexpectedly demanded the journalist fraternity and civil society to prepare the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the select committee.

For all other select committees set up so far, on rape laws, national integration and integrity, the stakeholders have never been asked to prepare the TOR as this is the government’s job.

We are pleasantly surprised by the generous invitation and will seek the collaboration of other parties like National UJ, NPC and Bar Council to prepare the TOR together.

We however do agree with the minister’s call for the journalist fraternity, especially editors, to come together and not just blame the repressive laws for infringing media freedom. The call was made in his dialogue with journalists, bloggers and members of the public this morning between the walks.

We believe the mainstream media have the professional obligation to advance the cause of media law reform by facilitating public debates and discussions.

Notwithstanding this, the government must both recognize the public as a legitimate stakeholder and engage all stakeholders in media law reform.

We call upon all Malaysians to endorse our memorandum at demands for the abovementioned select committee, the shelving of PPPA before its abolition and the enactment of freedom of information laws at both federal and state levels.


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