Malaysia: Establishment of the Media Council must not violate media freedom

Malaysia: Establishment of the Media Council must not violate media freedom - Media

On Wednesday, 21 February, the Communications Minister of Malaysia, Fahmi Fadzil, announced that the Cabinet had approved the Malaysian Media Council (MMC) Bill, which could be tabled in Parliament as soon as June 2024. 

The announcement indicated that the ‘Bill will outline a code of conduct and dispute resolution procedure for public complaints against the media, and establish a budget for the Council’. 

Nalini Elumalai, ARTICLE 19’s Senior Malaysia Programme Officer, said:

‘ARTICLE 19, together with civil society, journalists and media outlets, has been advocating for improving press accountability and better self-regulation in Malaysia for more than three decades. However, we have always viewed specific media laws with caution as they often excessively restrict, rather than protect, media freedom. 

‘While we yet to see the actual proposal, we warn that the processes for setting up regulatory bodies for the media and ethical standards codes should be consultative, inclusive and transparent. It is not up to the legislation to set up the code of conduct for the media. Instead, the Government must support press self-regulation from the bottom up, rather than a top down or centrally imposed solution.’

ARTICLE 19 is also concerned about the Malaysian Code of Ethics for Journalists, launched by the Government on 20 February 2024. 

As we repeatedly warned, codes of ethics should be developed and adopted by the industry and not imposed by the government. Bearing in mind the dynamic nature of the media and changing values in society, any code of conduct should be considered a working document subject to interpretation, rather than a set of rigid rules.

ARTICLE 19 will continue to work with civil society and media actors in Malaysia for the establishment of the Malaysian Media Council Act that is independent and guarantees media freedom and protects journalists in Malaysia. 


ARTICLE 19 has produce legal analysis of previous proposals of the Media Council Bill. For instance, in 2020, we analysed the Draft Act, prepared by the Pro-Tem Committee appointed by the previous Pakatan Harapan government.

ARTICLE 19 key recommendations include:  

  • Before the tabling of this legislation, the government must provide for greater transparency in the meaningful consultative process with all stakeholders, especially media practitioners and other civil society, and ensure the independence of the MMC from government, commercial, or other interests.
  • Setting up the Media Council must be a part of broader reforms in Malaysia to improve human rights protection and to amend or repeal all problematic laws such as the Printing Presses and Publication Act (PPPA), the Sedition Act, Section 233 of the CMA, Section 203 of the Penal Code and Official Secrets Act (OSA) that continue to endanger freedom of expression and the work of  journalists in Malaysia;  
  • The Media Council must be independent in law and in practice from state, commercial and other influences.  

For more information, Nalini Elumalai, Senior Malaysia Program Officer, ARTICLE 19, [email protected]