Fair postings encouraged

PETALING JAYA: With more bloggers and commentaries making their presence in the social media, the Communications and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia (CMCF) has warned that such postings should be fair and unprovocative.

Its chairman Datuk Ahmad Izham Omar said being able to express one’s view is always a good thing but not to the detriment of others where sharing of views is not validated by accurate facts.

“There are no restrictions placed on commentaries and public feedbacks, including in news portals, as long as the general rules of decency are observed. If there are transgressions of the general rules, then it behoves portal owners and administrators to moderate these comments to allow for positive conversations.

“Self-regulation is imperative as negative or harmful comments may lead to contentious circumstances that can potentially breach current laws if they are not moderated,” Izham told StarBiz.

As more bloggers are working on a “no holds barred” basis which often deviate from the mainstream news and at times tainted with negative views, he advised owners to take responsibility for all posts on his or her blog, regardless of whether the content originates from a third party.

Locally, he said the hosted sites subject to the content code in Malaysia, the “innocent carrier” principle may apply but is limited to the point where the site owner discovers or is made known that their site carries objectionable content.

If this is the case, they must then remove the objectionable content, Izham added.

CMCF is a regulatory body that governs the content code by way of industry self-regulation.It operates a complaints bureau that addresses grievances from consumers and industry members on matters relating to content over the electronic networked medium.

With fake news mushrooming around the globe including Malaysia, are there any controls to manage the menace?

He agreed the fake news phenomena has become a global issue in many jurisdictions including Malaysia.

“Similar to snopes.com, the local version of a fact-checking site is administered by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) known as “sebenarnya.my”.

Notwithstanding this measure, the responsibility ultimately falls on the user to not take everything at face value and exercise discretion in discerning and checking as to what may be real news as opposed to fabricated and sensationalised news,” Izham added.

On whether there were restrictions on the sensationalisation of stories in news portals, CMCF executive director Mohd Mustaffa Fazil Mohd Abdan noted that news portals generally tend to employ a different approach in their reporting style.

“However, the news being reported and the opinion of the writer must serve the best interests of the public.

“The writing style and approach may differ from traditional media, but it is acceptable as long as the content is framed within the context of fair, objective and accurate reporting,” he explained.

Asked on whether inflammatory comments or issues would be addressed in the updated CMCF’s content code, Mustaffa said the code already has the required minimum standards for news and current affairs reporting.

He added that the general requirements for electronic content is to ensure that material disseminated does not include anything that is offensive, indecent, likely to encourage crime or lead to disorder, is abusive or threatening in nature, was already entrenched in the code.

On whether there are plans to implement stricter measures to curtail the spread of fake news and incendiary comments against site owners and portal operators,

Mustaffa noted: “From the CMCF’s perspective, the measures are already within the content code for the industry and public’s reference.

“Any further implementation against the general public will be at the discretion of the relevant authorities.”

Will adherence to the content code as a legal requirement facilitate the process of ensuring self-regulation and public and private responsibility?

He said the code is a self-regulatory document. Only certain licensed entities are subjected to it as a legal requirement whereas it remains as a voluntary guideline for others, he added.

“Where it has been possible for these parties to implement self-regulatory practices, it will also apply to the general public in using the code when they conduct themselves online,” Mustaffa said.