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Fahmi Fadzil launches new code of ethics for journalists, faces pushback

Fahmi Fadzil launches new code of ethics for journalists, faces pushback

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The Malaysian communications ministry has launched a new Malaysian Code of Ethics for journalists. This marks the first time the journalism ethics manual has been reviewed after 35 years since its inception in 1989 by the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI). 

The revised code of ethics, according to communications minister Fahmi Fadzil, will lift the quality of journalism in Malaysia and increase the trust of the people in the media. 

Don't miss: Fahmi Fadzil reminds influencers in MY to be mindful of content posted

Fahmi also called the new code of ethics an improvement over the previous version to keep up with the modern era of social media. 

Speaking to journalists at the ethics manual launch, Fahmi shared that he hoped that the new guidelines would assist media agencies to carry out their duties and promote professionalism and integrity amongst them. 

“In this era of fast Internet, fake news and slander spreads overwhelmingly fast," said Fahmi. 

“But through this new code, we hope to expand the media’s role in fighting fake news to provide the people with the tools they need to be able to confidently verify posts and news they see on social media." 

The manual, according to Fahmi, was created in by looking at the journalistic ethics of several Asian countries such as Singapore, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and South Korea. 

It outlines eight fundamental ethics that emphasises the responsibilities and standards expected of journalists in Malaysia. 

This includes being the voice of a plural society, being transparent and having integrity when carrying out tasks, being fair when reporting and not allowing personal interests to influence news reporting.

In addition, the code of ethics underscores that validity and accuracy of information needs to be checked and that journalists need to respect privacy and confidentiality. 

Journalists are also required to understand the laws and policies relevant to their profession as well as continue to improve their journalistic skills. 

Although it's not been a week, there are already some pushbacks to the new code of ethics. The Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) released a statement calling the code of ethics a "blatant bid" by the government to "control and censor" the media and freedom of speech. 

The LFL perceived it as a "standing and continuous threat towards the press" and claimed that the government is "using the code of ethics to further strengthen its control over the media." 

The LFL also called for the establishment of an independent Media Council so that the media industry themselves will regulate journalistic ethics and the credibility of the news. 

An independent media and the marketplace of ideas, according to the LFL, is crucial to a healthy and functioning democracy. 

"It cannot be achieved if the government makes itself the sole purveyor of truth and information," said the LFL. 

The launch of the new code of ethics for journalists comes after Fahmi encouraged the mindful usage of social media.

Appearing in an episode of Ini Kopi Kita - Sembang Anak Malaysia, a talk show produced by the Department of Information, the minister addressed fear of missing out (FOMO), excessive online sharing and how it impacts online users in today's digital era. 

In the same episode, Fahmi said that not everything posted online - whether via an influencer or a regular person - is real.

"Sometimes we forget that when people produce content, it's actually manufactured," said Fahmi. "Content is content. It's not real life." 

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Freedom of speech not to be abused, says minister Fahmi Fadzil 
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