Association calls for media council after The Star fiasco

star-wanifraPETALING JAYA: Following the uproar over The Star’s recent front page, featuring a picture of Muslims praying alongside a headline on terrorism, a media association is calling for the formation of a media council to allow greater self-regulation within the news industry.

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-Ifra) Media Freedom Committee of Malaysia said such a council could formulate guidelines on ethical reporting and act as an ombudsman for public complaints against the media.

This would prevent arbitrary action against journalists and media houses by the government, and ensure the high quality journalism the public deserved, it said in a statement today.

The proposed media council will comprise representatives from the print, online and broadcast media.

“The formation of a media council, industry guidelines and ombudsman body would raise standards in journalism.

“Beyond that, it would educate the Malaysian public on the role of the media as well as ways to seek remedy for ethical infringements in a developed and democratic society, without recourse to punishment from the state,” it said.

The Star came under heavy fire over the weekend after releasing its Saturday issue with a picture of Muslims performing the tarawih prayers below a report on terrorism with the headline “Malaysian terrorist leader”.

It issued an apology the next day, and four senior editors went to the home ministry after being summoned to give their statements.

However, many insist that stricter action be taken against the daily, which has reportedly made similar mistakes in the past.

Groups such as PAS and Perkasa have refused to accept The Star’s apology, with Perkasa calling on the home ministry to suspend the daily’s licence for a year.

Johor Umno assemblyman Tengku Putra Haron Aminurrashid Jumat meanwhile demanded that The Star’s owners revamp the editorial team to better manage matters relating to Islam.

Yesterday, the home ministry issued a show-cause letter to the daily and gave it seven days to explain why action shouldn’t be taken against it under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

The ministry added that the suspension of its publishing permit was also a possibility.

The WAN-Ifra Media Freedom Committee said such action underscored the urgent need to repeal the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

It added that The Star had acted correctly in immediately addressing its audience’s concerns.

“It took corrective measures and need not be further censured.

“We are concerned that building pressure will drive the home ministry to act unfairly against the daily, despite the newspaper’s proactive measures in rectifying its mistake.”

Suspending The Star’s publication licence would also affect the livelihoods of hundreds of staff members, including support staff who are faultless in the matter, it said.