By Hasmy Agam, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia
In commemorating the World Press Freedom Day, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) strongly urges full respect for the fundamental right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Themed ’21st Century Media: New Frontier, New Barrier’, this year’s commemorative day takes note of both the empowering impact of the free exchange and flow of information brought about by the digital age of online media and social networking, as well as of its continuing impediments.
In moving with the times, it is opportune of the nation to liberalise its restrictive media laws so as to allow the people to reap the full benefits of this new medium of online information exchange in a sensible, ethical and responsible manner.
The commission therefore reiterates its call for a review of existing laws relating to the media, in particular, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, and to adopt a more liberal approach to the approval and renewal of printing and publishing permits and licenses by providing for their automatic renewal.
In upholding transparency and accountability and ensuring checks and balances, the Commission reiterates its stand that laws affecting the duties of the press must be reviewed and the rights to equal access of information must be safeguarded.
In this regard, the commission looks forward to the early establishment of the proposed National Media Consultative Council, as a self-regulated body to be managed by media practitioners, which will be a great boost for press freedom, while ensuring ethical and responsible journalism.