KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — The National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) called today for Malaysia to accede to the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said in a statement today in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day that the right to exercise freedom of expression and opinion was imperative for the holistic development of an individual and it was the foundation of every democratic society.
“Suhakam has always regarded the media as an essential instrument that has the potential to contribute immensely to the promotion and protection of human rights.
“The media does not only act as a conveyor of information but it also, either intentionally or indirectly, shapes public perception and opinion,” he said.
Razali noted that Article 19 of the ICCPR provides that everyone has the right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”.
While media freedom is an important aspect of a democratic country, Razali also reminded the media to “exercise this right with responsibility as well as courage and sense of purpose”.
Razali said the media can serve as an effective tool in raising awareness on human rights and highlighting instances of human rights violations.
“Such a role by the media is instrumental in ensuring that human rights concerns are brought to the attention of the relevant authorities as well as the public at large, with a view to prompting action and measures to address the issues,” he said.
However, Razali pointed out that the media could also instil sentiments contrary to human rights principles and standards.
“While Suhakam recognises the important role the media plays in keeping public discourse alive, the media should continuously seek to improve their reporting standards and endeavours to promote human rights.
“In this regard, adherence to a code of ethics is paramount in ensuring professionalism in media reporting. A free, responsible and unbought media is essential in any society to ensure freedom of opinion and expression.”
Last month, Malaysia placed 144th out of 180 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom rankings. This was an improvement of two places from the previous year.
However, the country’s press freedom had declined by 0.32 points, from 46.57 to 46.89 points.