Will curbs on politicians owning media target proxies too? Journalists’ group asks

Jamny Rosli
IoJ spokesman Chak Onn Lau said the government’s move to promote media freedom was good, but it needed a measured approach. — Malay Mail pic

PETALING JAYA, Sept 11 — Press groups have raised various concerns about the government’s proposal to cap share ownership in media organisations by political parties.

Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) spokesman Radzi Razak said the move will help encourage independent media, but highlighted other niggling things.

“While some political parties do have direct ownership to media companies, in Malaysia, businessmen and entities who have close ties and acts like proxies to political leaders to certain political parties do possess shares in such companies,” he told Malay Mail.

“Will these proxies be affected as well by such rules?” he questioned.

Radzi said the fight to uphold an independent media was not solely the work of the government, but the media fraternity itself.

“The public should also demand for more transparent, unbiased journalistic integrity and work towards being intelligent and savvy readers in order for it to happen,” he added.

News portal The Malaysian Insight, citing sources, reported Thursday that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government is mulling to restructure the ownership of mainstream media companies by limiting the shareholding to 10 per cent from the political parties and other entities, including private companies, organisations or individuals.

Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IoJ) spokesman Chak Onn Lau said the government’s move to promote media freedom was good, but it needed a measured approach.

“Well, it’s good that Putrajaya is considering active steps to promote media freedom.

“But with how much political parties are unfortunately ingrained into Malaysian media, they also need to consider a measured approach to ensure that these companies won’t be destabilised,” he said.

Chak also said both sides of the political divide must be addressed, or it would just be a different side of the same coin.

The National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJ), however, called for a total abolition of any media ownership by politicians.

“We urge the PH government give up or abandon this idea, no matter (it) is restructuring ownership structure or anything, we just want the media to be totally freed from any form of political influences.

‘If the party wants to own the media, they can print their own party papers or magazine or even portal instead,” NUJ general secretary Chin Sung Chew told Malay Mail.

He said this was to ensure that the media could play its role as the fourth estate to check and balance the government.

“And the journalists also can report their news or produce the stories concerning the benefit of the relevant stakeholders without fear or favour,” Chin said.

PH in its May 9 election manifesto had pledged to review all laws that curbed media freedom.

It is understood that Umno owns about 49 per cent of Utusan Melayu Bhd, the company that publishes Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!, while Nilam Setar (M) Sdn Bhd, which belongs to businessman Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, is the second largest shareholder at around 15 per cent.

Umno also has a 19 per cent share stake in the Media Prima Bhd group via its companies Gabungan Kesturi Sdn Bhd and Altima Inc.

Meanwhile, MCA’s stake is 43 per cent in the Star Media Group, while 32 per cent is owned by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), the National Equity Corporation (PNB), Amanah Raya Berhad and Lembaga Tabung Haji.

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