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IFJ welcomes move to establish media council

(IFJ/IFEX) - April 12, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the announcement by its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of Malaysia (NUJM) of an action plan to form an independent media council in Malaysia.

At a meeting held in Kuala Lumpur on April 8 organised by the NUJM and the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), working journalists, union leaders, civil society activists and members of press councils in India, Indonesia and Australia discussed potential self-regulation mechanisms for Malaysia's media. An action plan calling upon the NUJM to play a leading role in establishing a media council was unanimously endorsed by the meeting.

"An independent media council will act as a platform for redressing the widespread public distrust in the mainstream media in Malaysia, which is constrained by punitive legislation and highly politicised ownership and licensing regulations," NUJM General Secretary Anbalagan Veerasamy said.

"The NUJM will engage with all stakeholders, including the government and political parties who own the major newspapers, to encourage ethical journalism and find a mechanism to address complaints about media coverage in Malaysia. "It will also lead public discourse on achieving true press freedom in the country by advocating for the repeal of laws that are used to constrain free speech and political debate."

A steering committee will be formed by the NUJM executive immediately to oversee the process, and will begin a public consultation and awareness raising process on the role of an independent media council. The media council will also encourage the participation of journalists and proprietors from Malaysia's burgeoning online media sector, which has largely escaped the restrictive laws that affect print and broadcast media.

"The IFJ is encouraged by the NUJM's decision to take the initiative and lead this debate on press freedom in Malaysia," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"The experience of our colleagues internationally shows that journalists' unions and associations are best positioned to be at the forefront of debates over journalists' ethics, self-regulation and press freedom, regardless of the eventual structure of a media council."

Eminent members of councils from India, Indonesia and Australia at the meeting outlined the different models applied in their particular political contexts and emphasised that promoting ethics and accountability is best served by an inclusive and representative industry organisation.

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