Petition for Media Reforms and Democracy Enhancement

Petition for Media Reforms and Democracy Enhancement
8 June 2018

Freedom of speech, press freedom and the operation of media have been severely oppressed by the ruling parties since Independence. It continuously jeopardizes media environment, and obstructs the development of democracy and freedom. After years of effort, the opposition coalition has eventually won power, while an acceleration of the pace of reform remains an earnest wish of the general public.

The newly minted government should strive to construct a new media environment which would bemore reasonable and healthier for all. A new media environment which improves the rights of communication is indeed long overdue. People should be allowed to collectively create, amend and change our shared culture in a society which embraces free flow of information. It is definitely a tough and challenging task to reform and rebuild the media environment in our country. Meanwhile, it also requires anactive participation and support from the public.

Thus, we, the academicians from the field of media and communication, would like to urge the government to take the following suggestions into consideration for reform media.

1. Enact laws to protect press freedom, free flow of information and the right to know. The government should deregulate its control over press freedom to the greatest extent possible, while also repeal or amend laws that stifle press freedom and free flow of information.  Laws should be enacted to protect press freedom, free flow of information and the right to know. Also, the government should promote the diversity of public opinions and ensure an equal access to media.

  1. 1. Constitutional amendment to protect press freedom.
  1. 2. Repeal the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA 1984). The government should replace the licensing system with aregistration system, so that any printed media would have the right to publish after their registration with the Ministry of Home Affairs. No approval from ministry is required.
  1. 3. Repeal the Anti-Fake News Act 2018, allocate resources to promote media literacy education, and nurture the media literacy and taste of citizens.
  1. 4. Abolish the Sedition Act 1948
  1. 5. Enact a Freedom of Information Act, so as to allow media access to data and information of government, and to promote the right to know.
  1. 6. Amend the Competition Act 2010 in order to limit capital from cross-controlling different media, and to avoid the same media monopolizing the media industry vertically and horizontally.

2. The government should distance itself from leading a media council. After repealing and amending draconian laws that oppress press freedom, media players should set up a self-funded media council. The government should not involve itself in the media council except for providing funding.  A media council should be given the autonomy to operate on its own, free from government intervention. This is to avoid it becoming a government mechanism to institutionalise its control over media.

3. Reform the state-owned public broadcaster into an independent public institution. We strongly urge the government to turn Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) into an independent public institution, rather than corporatizing it to become another commercial media operator. A reformed RTM should get rid of its role as a government mouthpiece; instead, it should transform itself into a politically neutral Public Service Broadcaster which would serve the interests of all. It should become a platform for both ruling and opposition parties, NGOs, public intellectuals and thecitizenry. It should foster a more interactive public dialogue and promote deliberative democracy.

4. Policy intervention in supporting non-mass media. To encourage the diversity of media and public discussion, to protect the communication rights of marginalized groups, such as the aboriginal and economically disadvantaged communities, dissident groups and other related stakeholders. We are of the view that the government should subsidise alternative or non-mass media: Aliran Monthly, indigenous media, environmental magazines, dissident media, to name but a few. The government should set up a fun along the lines of the Universal Service Provision (USP) to contribute funds and resources to enable these non-mass media to survive and sustain in a healthier media environment. Fund allocation could be derived from government budgets, while the media are required to contribute a certain ratio of their profits to the USP once they attain a certain profit level.

5. Media Literacy as part of a National Curriculum. We urge the government to list media literacy as part of a National Curriculum for our public and private secondary schools and tertiary education system. It is vital to educate and equipped citizens to manage the skills of identifying, analyzing, evaluating and criticizing various messages from different sources of media in the era of information explosion.

We implore the government to call for and appoint academicians, experts, media players and related stakeholders to form a committee for policy making in media reform. This committee would be tasked to carefully study afore-mentioned proposals, to formulate an action plan, and to execute the tasks within a time frame. Chinese edition

Undersigned (in alphabetical order):

  1. Chai Lee Mei, Ms.
  2. Chang Teck Peng, Dr.
  3. Chung Lee Peng, Ms.
  4. Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Ms.
  5. Kaw Pai Yeow, Dr.
  6. Koh Ea Boon, Ms.
  7. Kuan Chee Wah, Mr.
  8. Kwan Wan Shi, Ms.
  9. Leong May San, Ms.
  10. Liaw Pey Wen, Ms
  11. Mustafa Kamal Anuar, Dr.
  12. Ng Miew Luan, Ms.
  13. Soo Shey San, Dr.
  14. Tan Lee Ooi, Dr.
  15. Wong Chiew Kung, Dr.
  16. Wong Kok Hoo, Dr.
  17. Zaharom Nain, Prof.