Salleh: Online news portals may require registration

“There is no problem in giving opinions or constructive criticisms but if there is content that can affect national security, religious and racial relations, then it cannot be accepted”

KUALA LUMPUR: News portals with a high number of visitors may be required to register with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

A proposal on this will be submitted to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) soon.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak said all feedback, including engaging stakeholders, will be taken into consideration, before a decision is made.

“Don’t take it as a move to restrict the media but to further develop the media industry,” he told reporters after presenting awards to the best Merdeka posts on Instagram #IM60 here today.

Salleh said the proposal to register online media is enforceable as it has been implemented in Singapore.

“The proposal will also examine the definition of what an online news portal is. It will clearly distinguish whether a portal is political or non-political.”

Salleh said news portals should not be free from the law and should be held responsible for their publications.

“What is wrong for traditional media is also wrong for online media because the (product) is the same, where both produce news.

“Traditional media are liable under the law if they breach existing laws, so should online portals.

“Online media should ensure whatever they publish does not affect national security and good relations between races. We want online portals to be responsible,” he added.

Salleh said even mainstream media will not be spared legal action if it breaches the law.

“There is no problem in giving opinions or constructive criticisms but if there is content that can affect national security, religious and racial relations, then it cannot be accepted,” he said.

Although he did not elaborate on the proposals, Salleh said one of the factors is how the number of views a portal receives.

“Not all sites or portals will be required to register. For instance, if the portal only receives 5,000 visitors in a day, then there is no need to register.

“We will look at the number of visitors and hits received by the portals to see which one qualifies to be registered. In Singapore, it is over 50,000.”

He did not say whether the proposal will also include amending the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998.

Salleh said the Cabinet has formed a task force, comprising the attorney-general, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, to submit recommendations to the government.

In March last year, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed had revealed that the government was studying laws to regulate news portals, which involves amending the CMA.

Previously, all print media were required to renew their printing permits with the Home Ministry annually under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

The government removed the requirement in 2014 but it still has the power to suspend or revoke the printing permit at any time.

Meanwhile, The Malaysian Insight news portal head Jahabar Sadiq said it was premature to comment on the matter until the finer details of the proposal were disclosed and explained.

“My only questions are whether this proposal extend to include media portals from outside Malaysia, and what it would mean if none of the portals actually register,” he told the Sun today.

“Also, what is the reason behind this move to license and regulate the portals? These are the questions the minister needs to answer,” he added.

Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan said he was also waiting for details of the proposal to be revealed, adding that it was hard to make a stand on the matter without a clear explanation.

“This matter has been talked about. But I don’t know much about the details. We are waiting to find out more.”

Source: The Sun

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