Friday, June 29, 2007

Press Council long overdue

Once again, Malaysia's media practitioners have been urged to form a press council to regulate issues relating to publication and news reporting such as plagiarism, lies and the refusal of columnists or reporters to apologise for their mistakes, irrespective of whether done on purpose or otherwise.

According to deputy internal security minister, Datuk Fu Ah Kiow, the press council could help solve problems on irregularities among media practitioners.

Yes, there is a need for self-regulating mechanism to ensure that reporters perform their duties and responsibilities professionally, ethically and within the boundaries of the law. The press council, first proposed by former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak three decades ago, would enable the enforcement of the profession's code of ethics.

Of late, the Malaysian media was marred by plagiarism and incorrect reporting by a certain mainstream media. In one particular case, the writer refused to apologise for his wrong reporting involving the prime minister and former prime minister, what a shame!

The integrity of the profession has to be enhanced, protected and supported by positive values such as accountability and transparency and the press council is the answer.

It is the responsibility of the media, print, electronic and internet to initiate the formation of the press council and the government should not interfere or be the force behind the council.


Anonymous said...

Pak Tuan,

a rather biased opinion I must say on my apart, but I absolutely support the idea.

Zukri Valenteno said...

Pak Tuan,

Being a former reporter (as journalist was too big a designation for me to baggaged then) it was a noble idea to have a Press Council, indeed the Malaysian Press Council.

However, like many good ideas not supported by equally good mind, strategies for implementation, an idea remained just an idea. at best being a topic discussed over time and again. I remembered well that current Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin was a champion of this quite many years ago. He might have not been the first but a possiblity Malaysian Press Council came into being then was crystalized and vocalized by Zainuddin when the first time he step into the august chamber of Dewan Negara.

Since his progression from a Senator, Parliamentary Secretary, Media Adviser of The Malaysian Government (many might not have remembered this but he was once in that position while in transition prior to the 2004 General Election), Deputy Minister and now Minister I would think that a press council was still fresh in his mind. Now that he is The BOSS at Angkasapuri and a member of the Cabinet, one would expect that such idea would bear fruit and coming from him a former journalist.

However, it was not to be, perhaps due to the many compounding reasons. The main obstacle was that who-cares-whether-we-need-press-council-attitude among some people in the goverment and the higher ups in the press fraternity. I believed that should the idea was workable and doable, then Zainuddin could be have been the first person (or among the persons) to be responsible in setting up the council. It could have been that the idea was so irrelevant to many that could have perhaps persuaded Zainuddin to drop the idea altogether.

However, should there be people who do not and will not give up on such a noble initiative, then the council should now be named Malaysian Media Council as the perimeters were now enlarged with the convergence and emergence of new media, the internet included. By semantic, the meaning of the word press is by far limited and the only better possibility is a media council which would embrace all and sundry but must be media-related.

I really hope that Zainuddin will not give up on the idea lest he be the best person to "educate" the Cabinet on the reason and reasons of such inception. Giving credit to him that "he was from among us" the minister should be steadfast and determined enough to play the leading role to set it up.

But then again, we should also ask ourselves "do we need such an institution?" and "what purpose does it serve?" or "what is the relevance of such a council?". Although being touted as the Fourth Estate (we learn this in Journalism 101) the fact was that nobody in this country and this administration gives so much face (or giving face at all) to the media, rather short of saying "siapa pedulikan media di negara kita?". And coming back to the first question I asked earlier "who cares...about the media?". So, who really cared for and about the media in Malaysia?

And why did I said that? For all intend and purpose the is NO such thing as the Cabinet Committee on Media Malaysia when there were so many forums of such a level for, in example, Essential Goods, Sports, Women, Childen and Senior Citizen, Agriculture and Agri-Based Industries, Remuneration for Civil Servants and many other attributes that relate to the daily administration of our being and country.

When you do not have a special Cabinet-level committee on such an important matter like the media, then you have nothing to shout about. Can one imagine that the matter relating to the essential goods are not as important or maybe even at lower prority than the media? Is somebody telling us that media is not as significant as compared with the women, children and senior citizen? I might have a brief stint in the press fraternity (reporter 1983-1995) but that much experience tells me that we ought to have such a council to at least speak volume of the importance of The Press (now the media) as the Fourth Estate. Or the so-called Fourth Estate in Malaysia has already regressed to become a myth?

I do not know lah Pak Tuan. Unless the likes of Zainuddin or the inception of such a Cabinet-level committee on the media came into being, the idea of a Media Council is very much remote and could only now be a topic for a few and very far in between.

I sincerely hope that Zainuddin does not forget this noble idea once and for all and instead do something within the limited time he has left as a minister to propogate and play midwife to The Malaysian Media Council and at the vesy least get the council see the light of day.

This could be his only "legacy" if ever this MP of Merbok wants to be remembered for something great he had done while "he was there".

I am very interested to see such an institution realised for I am still very much a member of the Malaysian Media -- being a Media and Communication Consultant.

Zukri Valenteno
Anakbukit, Alor Setar, Kedah