Wednesday 18 May 2011

NUJ: Drop printing laws for media self-regulation

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has renewed its call to the government to repeal the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), deemed repressive and draconian, in favour of a media council to self-regulate and invigorate the print media.

NONE“The NUJ is of the view that the industry itself should decide its destiny,” its general secretary V Anbalagan (right) said in a statement.

Newspapers, he said, have had to endure more than 27 years under the PPPA, since 1984, as well as other guidelines from Home Ministry - all to the detriment of the industry.

Print media owners were cowed by the fact that their annual publishing licences could be withheld or revoked, for hanging over them was the shadow of the Act, which restricts the freedom of speech, expression and information.

However, the NUJ maintains its stand that no newspaper should be allowed to sensationalise or publish inaccurate news that cause friction among people of different races, religion, languages and cultures.

As such, in place of restrictive regulations, the union is of the opinion that the establishment of a media council would promote self-regulation by the industry and ensure that newspapers practised ethical journalism.

Anbalagan noted that even the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) had on July 7 last year called on the government to initiate the formation of an independent media council.

He said the government could provide the funding for the media council, but the council should maintain its independence.

Former Federal Court judge can lead

“Members must come from media editors, print media interest groups, the Bar Council and eminent individuals representing the public. Preferably the council should be led by a retired Federal Court judge,” Anbalagan suggested.

NUJ's statement comes in the wake of Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein's statement that newspapers should be given leeway despite stringent regulations under the PPPA.

Hishammuddin said he would call the chief editors of all newspapers for a discussion.

A similar body was mooted by the government in 2002, though the details of its formation have been shrouded in secrecy. The National Press Institute was tasked with coming up with a proposal for this media council, but it excluded the NUJ from its discussions.

Such secrecy raised eyebrows and concerns that the media council will be another layer of control by the government to monitor and restrict the media, instead of being a platform for the advancement and self-regulation of the industry.

As such, the concept of the media council proposed then received vehement opposition from the NUJ as well as from proponents of media freedom.

NUJ instead wants a council that can provide for self-regulation and, at the same time, phase out the government restrictive laws.

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