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Amendments to Printing Presses and Publications Act to be tabled during current Parliament sitting

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 (Bernama) -- Amendments to the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 will be tabled in parliament during the current sitting together with the laws to replace the Internal Security Act 1960, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The prime minister said the government had decided that besides abolishing the need for annual licence renewal, it would comprehensively review the need for the existing Act, taking into consideration the development of the ICT sector today.

"One of the initiatives under political transformation which I have announced is the move to abolish the renewal of the printing licence annually under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

"The government cannot to seen to have double standards with regard to its regulations on the print media and digital media," he said in his speech at the Malaysian Press Night and 2011 MPI-Petronas Malaysian Journalism Awards presentation, here, tonight.

Also present was Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim and MPI chief executive officer Datuk Chamil Wariya.

Najib said the measures taken by the government might be liked by the international community to the extent of Malaysia's ranking on the World Press Freedom Index for 2011 having improved over the previous year's.

Among the 178 countries monitored by the organisation, Reporters Without Borders, Malaysia was 122nd in 2011 compared to 141st on the index in 2010, up 19 steps.

"Among Southeast Asian countries, we are top, beating our neighbour Indonesia where a permit is not required to publish a newspaper.

"But before we get carried away by this assessment, let me stress here that we are not obsessed with the rating given by these outsiders or treating the recognition as a gold standard in measuring our press freedom. We have our own values and interests which we need to protect," said Najib.

He said the government was well aware of the needs and role of a free, fair and responsible media towards a country's growth and development.

"We should be grateful as since independence, Malaysia has such a media tradition and culture. The fact is, in a community of almost 200 countries in the world, why are there countries which are successful and those categorised as failures?

"What are the factors that determine a country's success or failure? Are the factors natural resources, leadership, institutions, demography, geography, value system or a combination of these factors and others not mentioned?"

Najib said there were countries rich in natural resources and with productive human capital but were still failed states or basket cases.

He said there were also countries which succeeded half-way and then their development stalled, while there were also those which were poor in natural resources but were yet successful due to various factors.

"The answers to these questions are not easy, but I am confident and I believe that the role and importance of the media cannot be denied.

"If the media of a country does not play its role as it should, as the mirror of the soul, aspirations, pulse and concerns of the people by disseminating information, educating, advocating and creating debate on current issues, and public policies and interests in a fair and responsible manner, then the media is actually not doing a service to the nation, people and government."

He said the government respected the media's position as a free entity which played a role of check and balance for the government's administration.

"As I've always said before, the era of the government knowing everything, era of the government having the monopoly of wisdom is over," he said.

Najib said the government welcomed the effort of the editorial leaders of the print media to form a Malaysian Press Council as a watchdog in enhancing professionalism in the country's news industry.

He said the editors also agreed to draw up a code of ethics detailing journalistic principles as guiding principles for journalists in carrying out their duties of news gathering and production.

"I leave it to a special committee set up for the editors to come up with a workable code of ethics.

"The government will not interfere and it is up to the industry to supervise themselves with regard to their journalistic professionalism. The government will accept whatever proposals given with an open heart and mind."

Najib said he agreed with Malaysian journalists' view that the existing regulations involving the media cannot remain static, as "we are now in the digital era where we have all access to information."

"The policy of the government itself is to create a wireless nation as we do not want Malaysians to be like a 'katak bawah tempurung' (a frog under a coconut shell) in this era of a borderless world.

"My commitment is to produce Malaysians who think global with the roots entrenched at the local and global levels," he said

 

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