Editors of various newspapers and online portals, and even blogger Rocky Bru, met the Home Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusuf for the first time today to discuss the proposed Malaysian Media Council. I attended the meeting in my capacity as the Group Chief Editor of The Star. I can say that most of us kept an open mind of the proposed body, which plans to be self-regulatory if it takes off.
Most countries already have such a similar set-up but we also expressed our concern that the proposed MMM should not be another layer of regulation. There are already too many stringent laws governing the press and certainly we do not need any regulatory body. But the aim and concept of the MMM is good.
If there are reforms on the related laws, which can be carried out simultaneously with the setting up of MMM, then it is good. For one, the annual renewal of printing permits for newspapers should be abolished. Nobody needs a permit to start an online portal, so why should newspapers need to have one?
It is also important that the MMM has the respect and support of the public. It would be meaningless if the MMM is perceived as another government body.
For it to work, it must be truly independent and that means politicians should not be appointed into the body. It should comprise of editors, publishers, ministry officials, NGO representatives and eminent persons. It has been a good and positive preliminary meeting. It is only fair that everyone keep an open mind of the proposal and not be too quick to shoot it down. Reservations from journalists and members of the public are expected as the country does not have a strong track record for press freedom. Aziz sent positive vibes at the meeting but he has now being named the new Elections Commission chairman. What happens next?