Political parties must not control media organisations, says Gobind

THARANYA ARUMUGAM

SHAH ALAM: Political parties should have no control over media organisations to ensure freedom of the press, said Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo today. He said the ministry is currently reviewing matters concerning political party ownership of media. Asked if ownership by political parties will be abolished, he said: “It is something that we are considering." “There are two or three different views that have been put forth (over media ownership) - on licence control, controlling companies that control certain newspapers, and if we should permit shareholding but not in a way that allow them to control news agencies. “What is important is for us to sit down and understand what we want to achieve from this. If we want to ensure that political parties do not control newspapers or news portals, then we should look at it from that angle. “My position remains that political parties should not control the media. This is something the Cabinet must decide,” he told reporters at the International Parcel Centre (IPC), here today. Gobind, however, said the ministry has not raised the matter to the Cabinet pending further studies and discussions on the various options that have been brought forward. “Let us look at the options first. Only then I will be able to tell you what is it that the Cabinet has considered, explain to you why there are different suggestions, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of all the other suggestions,” he added. Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in an interview with the Singapore Straits Times spoke on the removal of political party ownership of media to ensure media freedom. The Pakatan Harapan (PH) manifesto stated that the government will ensure that media has the freedom to check and balance its administration. PH also promised to review all laws and regulations related to the media so that media freedom is guaranteed. On another matter, Gobind said the government is studying possible amendments to Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and is also looking at the Sedition Act 1948. “Act 233 is very broad in nature. It regulates various sectors. We are looking at amending certain parts of it, but there are other things that we have to consider. So, there may be amendments which relate to investigations, and some which relate to regulations. “There will be some provisions that will be removed and some new provisions that we will bring in. There is a study being conducted by my ministry because this is directly related to the Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Commission (MCMC).” Asked if the Sedition Act will be repealed, Gobind said as stated in the PH manifesto, this is one of the provisions that will be considered, which is to repeal the “outdated Act.” “But this comes under the purview of the minister of law. He is looking into it as well as areas concerning the Anti-Fake News Act (2018) and also on freedom of information.” On MCMC’s role in internet monitoring, Gobind said the organisation does not act on its own, but only on requests forwarded to them by the police or other investigation authorities. “MCMC does conduct surveillance on the internet or users. They assists enforcement agencies, such as police should there be need for it. This includes all activities (including cases relating to child porn, explicit contents and online gambling).”

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