KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 — Lawyers For Liberty (LFL) has today condemned Putrajaya for launching the revamped code of ethics for journalists, calling it a ploy to control and determine what news can be disseminated online.

The director of the lawyers' group, Zaid Malek, said the government should have formed the independent Malaysian Media Council first before approving any codes of ethics to limit government interference.

“The media has for so long called for the formation of an independent Malaysia Media Council, in order to limit government interference with the media and to move towards self-regulation.

It is surprising and inappropriate then for the government to launch a supposed improved code of ethics for journalism before the Media Council has been formally instituted. It is akin to putting the cart before the horse," Zaid said in a statement here.


“It thus raises alarm when Fahmi has also confirmed that the Information Department is authorised to rely on the code of ethics to cancel media accreditation cards. This cannot be perceived as anything else but as a standing and continuous threat towards the press," he added.

Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil launched the revamped Malaysian Code of Ethics for Journalists yesterday, while promising that it will not restrict media freedom of expression but rather a guideline for media agencies to carry out their duties.

Elaborating on the media council, Fahmi said it has many responsibilities, one of which is overseeing the registration processes of journalists and ensuring compliance with established standards.


Zaid however said Fahmi's move is akin to the government trying to strengthen its control over the media. He put the new code of ethics in the same category as existing laws he deemed draconian such as the Printing Press and Publications Act 1984, the Sedition Act 1948, the Official Secrets Act 1972 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

“This new code of ethics simply is a backdoor way of reviving the Anti-Fake News law, couched in terms of 'journalistic ethics', where the credibility of any news and its sources will be determined by the government.

“How can there be a free and independent media when the government gets to decide on what is 'ethical' news reporting?" he asked.

The Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 was tabled and presented in Parliament on March 29, 2018 by the Minister in the Prime Minister Department. A Bill to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 (the Act) was passed by the Dewan Rakyat on August 16, 2018.

The code of ethics in 1989 was published by the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI).

Fahmi said that this latest version was drafted after an engagement session with MPI and the National Union of Journalists, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia as well as representatives of the sponsoring committee of the Media Council.