Gobind: Political parties should not own media firms

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on August 21, 2018.
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KUALA LUMPUR: Political parties should stay away from owning media companies in order to improve the quality of journalism in Malaysia, according to Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo.

"I have always been clear on this — we should avoid ownership of media by political parties but of course the decision to outlaw it has to be made by this government," he said during his opening remarks at the Think Media with Google — News Publisher and Advertiser Summit here yesterday.

Gobind said the government is committed to supporting and cooperating with all stakeholders to ensure a more conducive environment for the media.

As a government that respects freedom of information and expression, it expects high standards from all stakeholders, he said. This comes with a responsibility to propagate credible news and information.

Gobind also defended the government's move to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act. He believed the haste in passing the bill prior to the 14th general election was highly suspicious and led to speculation that the now repealed law was just a tool to be used against the then opposition coalition.

Though the Anti-Fake News Act has been set aside, Gobind acknowledged the fact that the proliferation of fake news and misinformation is an important issue that must be addressed.

"We intend to have exhaustive dialogues and engagements with all stakeholders in order to combat this problem more effectively here in Malaysia," he said.

Gobind also reiterated the government's commitment to repealing the Sedition Act and amending the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) as he believed that some of the provisions in these laws were too vague and could be exploited.

"My ministry is in the process of proposing amendments to some of the provisions in the CMA. Section 233, for example, says that it is a crime to disseminate material that is deemed offensive, but what is offensive? And to which parties it applies to is highly debatable and ambiguous," he added.

The Think Media Malaysia 2018 is part of the Google News Initiative, which is a combination of all its global efforts to collaborate with the news industry and ensure a thriving ecosystem for news around the world.