Is the Malaysian Journalists Code of Ethics really necessary?

By Alliance for a Safe Community Chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye


KOTA KINABALU: To me, there is no need. Ask any professional journalist in this country, and I am sure he or she will say no.

Because such a code has negative connotations.

It presupposes the notion that journalists are sometimes prone to adopting unethical practices in the sourcing and presentation of news, editorials, and feature articles.

All journalists know only too well that if they indulge in unethical practices in the pursuit of their profession, it will be their death knell.

They will then lose their credibility, their readership, their reputation, and their jobs. No self-respecting professional journalist will risk that.

If at all such a code is necessary, it should be applied only to proponents and purveyors of fake news. But fake news is not the work of professional journalists. They are always the work of anonymous social media activists who lack any form of training, ethical considerations, or conscience.

They are there only to make a fast buck, to create mischief, or to sow seeds of discord. And therefore, it will be a futile exercise to try to get them to subscribe to any form of ethical code.

All professional journalists are responsible practitioners. They are all aware of the laws of the country.

Imposing any kind of code on them will be tantamount to killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

Yes, the mere idea of the code may have been well intentioned, but were the views of media practitioners sought prior to deciding on the issue?

This is important because the inherent risks associated with such a move could impact a free and independent press.

A code of ethics enforced by the government may inadvertently muzzle journalists, making them hesitant to report on issues that could be perceived as anti-government.

If journalists are forced to adhere to a government-imposed code, the public may question the authenticity and impartiality of the information presented. This scepticism could erode the public’s trust in the media. Instead of a top-down approach, it is better to foster ethical journalism through self-regulation.

Journalists and media organisations should be encouraged to develop and adhere to their own codes of conduct, emphasising such principles as accuracy, fairness, and accountability.

On the other hand, the proposed Malaysian Media Council is a commendable move, as it envisages the establishment of rules and regulations by the industry itself. Such a body will be fairer as it can ensure the interests of all parties, including the government, the opposition, and the public.

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