10/06/2024 01:58 PM

By Yasmin Ahmad

KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 (Bernama) -- Media freedom allows people to freely express their views but does not give them the right to make excessive statements that can cause social unrest, according to media experts.

They said sensitive issues such as 3R (race, religion and royalty) that undermine the country's unity and harmony must be avoided, and the mainstream media has an important role to play in educating the people, especially about Malaysia's legislation.

Dr Sara Chinnasamy of Universiti Teknologi Mara's (UiTM) Faculty of Communication and Media Studies said given the proliferation of information on social media platforms, it is crucial for the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to regulate online content to ensure fake news and harmful content are mitigated. 

"For this matter, the MCMC has to study especially in terms of technology convergence, updating the existing rules and regulations according to social media companies' latest algorithm and framework," the political and social media analyst told Bernama.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, in his address at the recent MPI-Petronas Malaysian Journalism Awards 2023, has reiterated that the government is firm in its stance to guarantee media freedom, but that freedom cannot be used to undermine the country's harmony, including by stirring up 3R issues.

Anwar said the government always supported and defended the rights and freedom of the media in providing reprimands and criticisms, adding that this has been the case since before the country's independence.

Sara said efforts to strengthen Malaysia's existing framework do not imply that the country is suppressing media freedom.

With the current internet consumption and accessibility, she said people can still get information through other platforms, including international media outlets. 

“The most important aspect here is to ensure the credibility of our mainstream media by implementing fair and balanced reporting, thus eliminating any loopholes that might prompt people to seek alternative sources,” she said.

Sara said media reports should afford equal rights to all individuals to ensure the enhancement of public trust towards mainstream media platforms, particularly in disseminating news relevant to society.

Media and communication lecturer Yugeetha Balan said Malaysia practises balanced media freedom, unlike certain countries that impose tight restrictions on journalists and prohibit activities in the national interest, thereby limiting press freedom.

While the code of ethics aims to sustain healthy journalism practices, she said, media literacy campaigns against disinformation are also important to combat the issue.

"Media literacy should not merely focus on learning about tools and technologies such as data journalism and artificial intelligence (AI) but should also aim to equip the public with critical thinking skills necessary for exercising judgment, analysing complex realities and distinguishing between opinion and fact," said Yugeetha, who is from Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak.

She said there is a need for both media service and video-sharing platform providers to collaborate with all relevant stakeholders to promote the development of media literacy across all sections of society, with progress in this regard closely monitored.

Citing an example, she said Facebook had launched the Media Literacy Campaign to Help Spot False News across 56 countries (including all 27 EU member states) and 27 languages in 2020, aimed at raising awareness and educating people on identifying potential false news.

In the Malaysian context, she opined that strengthening cooperation between the media and organisations such as press bodies, educational institutions, academies and consumer associations would leverage their experience and expertise to effectively reach a wider segment of the population.

UiTM's Media Warfare and Information Studies Centre psychological operations fellow Dr Noor Nirwandy Noordin said media freedom would retain the aspect of harmony as long as it is based on the framework of the Federal Constitution and Rukun Negara. 

He said media ethics serve as a key component in this matter, especially for parties not gazetted as  media with a proper editorial and news editing structure implemented by the mainstream media.

“For this, Malaysia needs safety control measures that are implemented through the enforcement of laws to preserve public order, national security and racial unity for the greater good of the country,” he said.

He said this is why MCMC is stepping up regulatory efforts to combat fake news and the public could use the portal to verify the authenticity of information.

Noor Nirwandy said media freedom also refers to the role of media practitioners as agents of peace for inculcating unity and positive mindsets among the people produce a great civilisation.



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