Media should be given space to serve as check and balance, says Fahmi

Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil says media agencies should serve the interests of the people in promoting good governance in the country. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, January 25, 2023.

MEDIA as the fourth estate of governance needs to be given space to provide check and balance and oversight as long as it is within the ambit of the law, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil said. 

He said in return, media agencies, whether state- or privately owned, are reminded to serve the interests of the people and not fulfil unseen agendas or any personal or private interests.

“I think as long as it is clear that the initiatives, the kind of stories, journalistic activism – if I may say it that way – serve the rakyat, I think it will benefit the nation. 

“When the media starts acting on behalf of certain parties, certain individuals, or on their vested interests, we have to assess them to make sure that they do not run against the principle of good governance,” he said in an exclusive interview with Bernama recently. 

When asked about allegations by a certain faction that the current government is trying to restrict media freedom, the minister said: “No, we are not trying to restrict media freedom, we are trying to stop slander. Bribery is bribery, even if you call it a ‘donation’.” 

Fahmi said his ministry is working closely with the social media service providers and they have been informed of the Malaysian laws and culture in which they have to acknowledge and operate within. 

He said most media platforms are equipped with artificial intelligence programmes to sift through and remove materials that run contrary to the platforms’ community guidelines.

“We have no intention of shutting down or curbing the use (of social media) but we are drawing the line so that if anyone is to cross or to transgress the law, law enforcement will automatically take action, just like if you were to write or post something that runs contrary to community guidelines for those apps.

“I think we have community guidelines on how these apps navigate freedom of speech while adhering to laws, but (in Malaysia) we also have our law and culture, so I think these will help navigate a lot of these new terrains,” he said. 

He said this when asked about the ministry’s course of action to navigate issues pertaining to race, religion and royalty – as user-generated content bombards the alternative media landscape. 

On the suggestion to repeal the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Fahmi said it is not a current priority, but that the law must not be abused. 

He said the Communications and Digital Ministry is expected to make some announcements in May in conjunction with National Journalists’ Day (Hawana) that will be good for the press and its audiences. 

Hawana, which is celebrated annually on May 29, commemorates the government’s recognition of and appreciation for media practitioners, and honours their contributions in helping develop the country and strengthen unity. – Bernama, January 25, 2023.

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