Government / Public Policy

Fahmi: Freedom of expression not a 'free pass' for media

KUALA LUMPUR: Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil said the government respects freedom of expression, yet warned it does not equally grant media a free pass for factually incorrect reporting.

Nevertheless, Fahmi said he has yet to receive a briefing from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) regarding the recent issue in which journalists criticised a news portal instructed to make changes or remove reports pertaining to the ruckus in the Dewan Rakyat.

"While we have freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, it does not mean we have a free pass to slander, to defame or write wrong or factually incorrect reports.

"I have not received any briefing from the MCMC. I believe the MCMC follows the law, and whatever they do is within the boundaries of the law.

"They do not refer everything to me before they take any action. In fact, sometimes it is a collaboration in conjunction with investigations whether it is the police or public complaints that they receive," he said at the press conference after attending the Malaysia Digital Expo 2023 media launch.

Fahmi acknowledged freedom of the press is significant, yet he reminded factually correct reporting is also identically crucial.

"Freedom of the press is something which is very important for the government.

"At the same time, being factually correct is also very important. There were some public complaints that were extended to me, but not only to myself, with regard to some reporting that was done," he said while citing examples of misreporting by the media during the state elections.

Fahmi expressed hope the Malaysian Media Council could help address media-related issues and revealed plans to bring the matter to parliament for discussion next year.

"Perhaps the Malaysian Media Council would be a very good avenue to mitigate, discuss and resolve a number of these issues.

"So we hope that by next year, we can bring the bill to parliament, and pass the law so that for media organisations, there can be better facilitation.

"I appreciate and value the feedback that has been given by members of the media and we will examine how we can enhance collaboration between agencies like the MCMC and the press, taking into account the foresight and wisdom of veterans, as we move towards better self-regulation," he said.

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