Wan Junaidi: Media practitioners, netizens should exercise freedom of speech responsibly to reduce spread of fake news, disinformation

Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar. Photo credit: Dato Sri Dr Haji Wan Junaidi Bin Tuanku Jaafar Facebook page

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KUCHING, June 8: All media practitioners must be careful, truthful and accurate in their reporting, while netizens should exercise their freedom of speech responsibly in order to reduce the spread of fake and false information and news.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Dato Sri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar highlighted this as he observed that the western media has been misusing their media privilege to influence the world by “exaggerating”, and sometimes not reporting accurate information.

“For instance, in the case of the Arab Spring. What actually happened in Iraq? What happened in Libya? What has been reported about Palestine? And the recent war between Ukraine and Russia?

“I’m saying this because I have been a victim of many misleading articles reported in the media. They always like to ‘put words in my mouth’ which has an adverse consequence. I will then be bombarded with so many leading questions as a result of the misleading and inaccurate information and news.

“And I will be left to (do the) damage control by clarifying and worse still defending myself on something I did not even say in the first place,” he said when delivering the closing remarks at the 2022 World Press Freedom Day Virtual Forum: Journalism under Digital Siege today.

The hybrid event organised by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, United Nations Country Team (UNCT) and Centre for Independent Journalism held at Kuala Lumpur City Centre discussed the digital era’s impact on the freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, media viability and public trust.

Noting that freedom of expression is a universal human right that is fundamental to a democratic society and is enshrined in the Federal Constitution, Wan Junaidi however emphasised that freedom comes when the society becomes more mature and as such, all stakeholders have to be responsible.

“Nobody, even politicians, has the right and powers to curb this fundamental right. Nevertheless, I personally believe that we need to not only ensure this right is not restricted but there should be responsible use of this right,” he opined.

With that, he advised those involved in the local news media industry to be very careful in what they report and strive to convey messages from any parties in the most accurate manner possible to ensure that media ranking is not negatively influenced.

He mentioned that although no democracy has absolute freedom of speech, unless citizens have the right to express themselves in the political process, no government can be made accountable for its actions.

“Each country places its own limitations on freedom of expression. What matters is that those limitations are not misused by political forces to limit public scrutiny of policies and actions that have an impact on the integrity of governance.

“Freedom of information and the right to access accurate information is vital in this context particularly for our country. This will inevitably ensure that people can obtain accurate and current information consequently reducing the spread of fake and false information and news,” he said.

Wan Junaidi pointed out that the Legal Affairs Division (BHEUU) has been working closely with the Centre for Independent Journalism to explore the possibility of a Right to information legislation in Malaysia and that engagement sessions have been conducted at both federal and state levels to ensure the policy decision is well-founded and can be presented to the government for a decision soon.
He cited his support for this initiative, which will facilitate a policy decision in due course.

“We are part of the democratic country where there must be checks and balances on the government and the media plays an important role in this. In a democratic set up the press can act as a bridge between the government and the people.

“The role of media is important as a feedback, exposure, and conduit mechanism in all countries. Most citizens receive their information about what is going on in the government, and how it affects them, through the media. In order to push the boundaries of media freedom, all media practitioners must be truthful in their reporting and report news in the best possible manner,” he said.

Wan Junaidi also urged media practitioners to adapt to changes due to the demands of the internet revolution in the era of digitalisation and find ways to tackle the onslaught of digital siege. — DayakDaily