Curbs on journalists have been lifted in recent years but this new-found independence must be closely monitored to prevent abuse, a Cabinet minister told a forum on media freedom last night.
Citing the growth of online news portals, Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said the space has grown by “leaps and bounds” in the past decade and the government views it as a “positive development”.
“The government is committed to its no-censorship rule… however, we must be cautious at all times because the Internet can be easily misused to inflame violence, incite racial groups and divide multiracial communities; therefore, any responsible government must put in place enforceable guidelines,” he said at a forum organised by the University of Nottingham last night.
“The media market is now accessible to all, not only those privileged few who can afford multi-million-dollar printing licences, or those who can launch satellites or buy broadcasting licences,” said Abdul Rahman.
He said Putrajaya has allowed the media to take pot shots at the Barisan Nasional (BN) government and the public to use social networking platforms to criticise politicians openly.
The minister held up the scrapping of the annual renewal of permits under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) in 2011 as a reduction of media control.
But newspapers and periodicals still require a permit under the PPPA to begin —and continue — operating.
“In reality, I believe we have been very progressive when it comes to the media; for example, action taken against the mainstream press has been merely advisory in nature, as opposed to the suspension of its licence in the past,” said the Kota Belud Umno MP.