KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — Putrajaya should abolish the Printing, Presses, and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) instead of considering its review, said the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
NUJ general secretary Chin Sung Chew said the local press have long called for the removal of the law requiring print media to be licensed and approved by the government.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also home minister, said yesterday he was open to reviewing the PPPA after the general election.
Citing Malaysia’s current position of 146th of 180 countries in a press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, the NUJ said continued restrictions on local media were harming its credibility.
“Malaysia has fallen to its lowest ever position in 2016 because access to information is becoming more limited, while one sided reporting is extensive especially in print media.
“The media and the public see these figures as a worrying inclination stunting the growth and development of media industry, a stumbling block to a democratic process that is stalling or going into reverse,” it said in a statement.
On Zahid’s remark that he was looking to engage with Malaysian press on setting up a media council or to appoint a press ombudsman for self regulation, the NUJ again insisted that this should not be driven by the government.
“NUJ would like to note, according to its survey, members polled for the need of an independent and self-regulatory media body to be formed with 50:50 ratio of public, and media participation.
“The industry wants to see the government abolish these laws (PPPA), with the setting up of the independent body, so that professional journalism can be adhered to, and to perform their duties responsibly without government interference,” said the NUJ.
Separately, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) Media Freedom Committee Malaysia said Zahid’s proposal for self-regulation was a “giant step forward” for press freedom in Malaysia.
The group also urged media owners and executives to recognise the potential that could be derived from the press policing itself, especially when the industry is fighting for survival.
It similarly urged the government to do away with the PPPA, pointing out that the law was keeping up with the gradual shift towards digital media, which it said was already regulated by the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA).