KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 20 — Political ownership of media companies should be avoided to combat misinformation, and to help instil greater accountability of the press, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh said.
However, he said the decision to completely axe such practice, lies with the government.
Gobind said his ministry would be proposing amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998, to tighten some of the provisions in the law, which are often deemed to be overly broad.
“Section 233 for example, says it is a crime to disseminate material that is deemed offensive, but what is offensive, and to which parties, is debatable.
“In addition to that, my stand, and I’ve always been clear on this, is that we should avoid ownership of media by political parties, but of course the decision to outlaw it has to be decided by the government,” he said, adding that he is open to engaging with relevant stakeholders on the matter.
The Puchong MP was speaking at the ‘Think Media Malaysia 2018’ forum organised by Google Malaysia.
Gobind also took a swipe at then Barisan Nasional (BN) administration for hastily passing the now abolished Anti-Fake News Act 2018.
“The Malaysian government under the Barisan Nasional coalition defended its action by highlighting other similar legislations in place in European countries in particular.
“It is worth noting that these countries had specific motivations and reasons for enacting such laws,” he said, adding that the laws was also used as a weapon to threaten free speech, especially on issues relating to 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
Gobind, however, acknowledged that the rise of fake news is a real problem which must be addressed, but with proper engagement with stakeholders, to address the issue tactfully.
“We of course cannot deny that the existence and proliferation of fake news and information is very real and it must be addressed.
“What constitutes as ‘fake news’ has to be looked at with specific references and context, and we intend to have exhaustive dialogue and engagement with all stakeholders in order to combat this problem more effectively,” he said.
“We are pleased to support and cooperate with all parties to ensure a more conducive environment for media practitioners.
“As a government that respects freedom of information and expression, we not only expect high standards from all vested-interest stakeholders, but that it must come with a heavy responsibility to propagate credible news and information,” he added.