Friday September 25,2015 : MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT ABANDONS PLAN TO ‘GUIDE' ONLINE MEDIA
Minister decides to rely on professionalism of the industry.
The Malaysian federal minister for Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak, appears to have abandoned his plans to introduce Singapore-style "guidance" for online media outlets, revealing this week in an interview with the Malaysian Insider that the Communications and Multimedia Ministry no longer plans draw up ‘guidelines’ specifically for online news websites.
The statement represents a considerable softening in tone for the minister, who on appointment in July this year said online news portals might be required to register with the government under proposed amendments to current cyber laws, although he did qualify that by saying he would be reviewing the situation
Minister Keruak explained the reasons behind his more restrained approach, saying:
“I feel all media, be it print or news portals, understand that there are laws governing their operations.”
He added that it was more important to the ministry that media practitioners be transparent in their reporting and practised the highest standards of ethics in journalism.
Minister Keruak acknowledged that online news portals attracted high readership levels compared with traditional media.
“[Online] Media portals tend to be bolder in their reporting approach so they should not abuse the existing freedom of the press," he said. “They have to guard the credibility and integrity of their profession."
He went on to give an assurance that online news portals would not be blocked without valid reasons, explaining that the block on the UK-based "Sarawak Report" imposed in July had been implemented because it had published what he claimed were “baseless and false reports”.
The minister alleged that the Sarawak Report had displayed malicious intent in its exposes on debt-ridden state investment firm Malaysia Development Bhd.
He emphasised that government did not want to restrict access to online information, but was intent on ensuring that such reportage was accurate.