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Freedom of Expression and the Media in Malaysia (Article 19)

Freedom of Expression and the Media in Malaysia (Article 19)

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Published by uppercaise
A report from Article 19 and Suaram, December 2005
A report from Article 19 and Suaram, December 2005

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Published by: uppercaise on Feb 15, 2011
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In regards to the PPPA:

> The registration system should be abolished.



> If the system is retained, it should meet the following

the system should be administered by an independent
registration should be an automatic, purely administrative
the authorized body should not be allowed to refuse
registration based on the subject matter of the media.
> The provision on "false news" should be repealed.

In regards to the OSA:

> Repeal the provisions that allow prolonged detention without
> Cabinet and State Executive Council decisions should not, as
a rule, remain classified as "official secrets" after final
> The definition of "official secret" should be rendered far more
precise so that only documents whose disclosure would pose a
serious and demonstrable risk to a legitimate protected
interest, such as national security, may be classified, and for
only as long as it poses a threat to that legitimate protected
> The law should include a provision providing that
information, even if otherwise classified as an "official
secret", should nevertheless be released if there exists an
overriding public interest in disclosure (public interest

ARTICLE 19 and SUARAM Publication
December 200.5

Freedom of

9 The group of persons qualified to classify information should
be narrowed to the Minister and designated senior public

Expression and


the Media

9 An offence of wilful misclassification should be created to
punish abuse of the classification procedure.
9 The Act should be amended to impose a time limit on the
classification of documents together with a compulsory
review period to ensure that the necessity of a classification is
reviewed with reasonable regularity.
9 Judicial review of any determination to classify information
should be specifically provided for.
9 The Official Secrets Act must be consistent with any freedom
of information legislation introduced.

In regards to the Media Council Bill:

9 The draft Media Council Bill should be dropped, as statutory
regulation of print and online media is not good practice.
9 The print media should be allowed and encouraged to
establish a truly self-regulatory system.
9 Online media and the Internet should not be regulated. Instead
they should be encouraged to adopt content rating systems
and filtering mechanisms to enable users to control the
content they wish to receive.
9 Any press or media council that will be established should be
fully independent of political and commercial pressures. In
particular, this has implications for financing, nomination and
appointment of its members, as well as operating procedures.
9 Financing for any press or media council should come, at least
in part, from the media industry.
9 It is preferable that a media or press council includes
representatives from a cross-section of stakeholders such as
journalists, editors, owners and the public.
> The self-regulation body should be financed in a way that
ensures full independence from political or commercial
interests, ideally by the media industry itself.
9 Any code of conduct drafted by the Media Council should be
clear and unambiguous in its wording, should be developed in
close consultation with the media and other stakeholders, and
should be disseminated widely to the public.
9 Any self-regulatory mechanism should provide for an
independent appeals procedure.

in Malaysia

ARTICLE 19 and SUARAM Publication
December 2005


In regards to Broadcasting

9 The legal framework for broadcasting should be revised to
establish progressive licensing and content regulation systems
as well as clear regulation to limit ownership concentration.
9 Licences should be made available for niche channels (such as
minorities) and for community radio, based on social merit
rather than only on available funds and political connections.
9 This framework should foresee limited or no licence fees for


community broadcasters and existing community broadcasters


should, in principle, have their licences guaranteed. A
definition of a community broadcaster should also be

P A comprehensive law on public broadcasting should be
9 Self-regulation should not be imposed by law but should be a
result of voluntary commitment by the media.
9 The broadcast regulator (Communciations and Multimedia
Commission) should be reformed to obtain full independence.
9 The Film Censorship Act should be substantially amended so
as to comply with international standards. In particular, it
should not make any distinction between foreign and domestic
films; it should include exact definitions which make the law
and its application predictable and foreseeable for filmmakers;
and it should exclude vague concepts such as "un-Malaysian".
9 Awareness raising and educational programmes on the human
right to free expression and the right to information should be
provided for staff of the public sector and law enforcement

In regards to Defamation:

9 Any defamation regime in Malaysia should respect the
following rules:

Public officials should not benefit from special protection
under defamation laws.
Public bodies should not be able to bring defamation
No one should be held liable in defamation for statements
which are true.
9 The most immediate measure necessary is for legislation
putting a cap to the amount that can be awarded.
9 It would also be useful if provisions were made for reportage
that is in the public interest or to publish stories in the public
interest based on facts available at the time.


ARTICLE 19 and SUARAM Publication
December 2005

Freedom of


3 If the journalist has followed professional standards with

Expression and

regards to "reasonable publication" helshe should not be

the Media
in Malaysia

In regards to Content Restriction:

3 Repeallamend legislation that stifles areas of discourse,
particularly the Sedition Act.
> More positive measures are required to undo years of
censorship and fear, such as investment in public and
community broadcasting or presses.
> Self-regulation of all media should be encouraged but not
imposed by law.
3 Create a climate for more tolerance and encourage informed
debates between and within communities, particularly on
matters of importance such as race and religion. The justified
concern (as seen by the vitriol on some websites) that this will
degenerate into hate speech and increase society's divisions
can be overcome through existing legislation, particularly in
the Penal Code, on inciting racial hatred and violence. This
legislation, however, needs to be used sparingly - and against
all incitements to violence regardless of political affiliation.

In regards to Freedom of Information:

P A comprehensive access to information law, in line with
international standards, should be adopted as a matter of
> Existing laws which provide for secrecy should be reviewed
and amended as necessary so that only legitimate secret
material is covered in accordance with international standards.
For instance in the OSA:

Sections 3 and 4 should be repealed and replaced with
narrowly drafted offences that clearly link harm to
national security to the prescribed conduct. They should
allow for a proportionate sentence to be imposed.
Section 7 should be repealed.
Section 16 should be repealed.
Sections 8 and 9(2) should be redrafted in clear and
precise language, prohibiting only those disclosures
which pose an immediate risk of serious harm to national
security or another legitimate interest. These provisions
should also allow for disclosure in the public interest.
> The government should encourage more openness on the side
of public officials.

P Promote the right to information to the public and build public
support for an FOI Act.

ARTICLE 19 and SUARAM Publicntiorz
December 2005

In regards to informal pressure on the media:

P Officials/business companies should respect editorial
independence and not apply any pressure, direct or indirect,
on journalists and media.

P Officials and other public figures should demonstrate
tolerance of criticism and allow the media to play their role of
public watchdog.

P The State should grant editorial independence to the state-
owned media.

P Editors should encourage their journalists to carry out the
media's role as government watchdog.

P A clause of conscience should be included in journalists'
employment contracts.


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