We take a serious view of the actions taken by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) of late in issuing warnings, calling up editors, and blocking certain news portals.
In the latest development, news portal MalaysiaNow was instructed to make changes or pull down reports pertaining to the ruckus in the Dewan Rakyat on Sept 19, 2023.
We are particularly concerned with the content of a statement issued by MCMC on Sept 22 regarding the matter. We are of the opinion that the response from MCMC is a reflection of the shallowness of its understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the media.
The statement proves that MCMC is hiding behind the Communication and Multimedia Act of 1998 to justify its existence and actions.
We are saddened and disgusted by what happened at the august Dewan Rakyat during the winding-up speech of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. We categorically condemn actions by parliamentarians that were beyond the pale of decorum, good manners, and contravening the rules of the Dewan Rakyat that resulted in the commotions on that day.
Nevertheless, the ruckus was aired live and viewed by the public. Snippets of the incidents are available on all social media platforms.
Therefore, blaming any news portal for reporting the story is unfair and totally unacceptable. The excuse given by MCMC that a few reports on the event had "been used as weapons to manipulate content and to create a feeling of disrespect and a narrative of confusion" raises more questions than answers.
Since when do we consider reporting a misdemeanour in this country?
In this context, we urge MCMC not to preach to us on what constitutes good and fair reporting.
We believe MCMC is deliberately fighting windmills to justify its actions. Media practitioners as a whole understand their responsibilities and are guided by their professionalism and code of ethics.
The problems faced by the MCMC in managing social media must not be an excuse to curtail the right of media practitioners to carry out their responsibilities.
We are fully aware that there is no such thing as absolute freedom of the press anywhere in the world. But we have to work with those imperfections to play the role of eyes and ears for the people.
MCMC should understand that for a functioning democracy to work, a free and vibrant press is vital.
We would also like to remind MCMC that the prime minister has on many occasions stressed the need to have a free and responsible media. He has time and again promised to take constructive criticism and comments openly.
The move by MCMC is undermining the very spirit espoused by the prime minister to ensure a conducive atmosphere where media practitioners can work without fear and favour.
The above is signed by Johan Jaaffar, A Kadir Jasin, Azman Ujang, Hussamuddin Yaacob, Chamil Wariya, Zakaria A Wahab, Zulkefli Hamzah, Zaini Hassan, Mior Kamarulbaid Mior Shahid, Ashwad Ismail, Ku Seman Ku Hussein, G Manimaran, Zainal Rashid Ahmad, Johardy Ibrahim, Esther Ng Sek Yee, Kuik Cheng Kang, Zamri Rambli, K Padmanabhan S Kanayah, Rashid Yusof, The Centre for Independent Journalism, and Gerakan Media Merdeka.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.