KUALA LUMPUR - A regional newspaper index to compare coverage in the Malaysian media against those of other Asean countries would be a good measure of the state of press freedom and ethical reporting in the country, said Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.
The former law minister said the index could do this by using benchmarks like journalism ethics, ownership control and truth in reports.
"This can be done by an independent source, and the results will at least show us what is wrong with the media reporting in Malaysia," he said at a workshop on ethical reporting held in conjunction with the Global Peace Convention here Saturday.
On enforcement of journalism ethics, Zaid said he did call on the Government to set up an Independent Press Commission to look into alleged breach of ethics by the local media.
Besides Zaid, Sin Chew Daily senior columnist Bob Teoh and MiDAS director Dr K.J. John were among those who discussed the issue of ethical journalism and "use of conscience" on the job.
Teoh noted that an ethical framework itself was insufficient, adding that although the National Union of Journalists had come up with a code of ethics, many in the profession remained unaware.
"This is because the code is not enforceable, hence there needs to be a workplace reform where media organisations come up with an acceptable code of ethics and inform their journalists about it," he suggested.
Dr John, a columnist for a news portal, cited three factors that local media ought to consider - public integrity, national interest and sectarian or community interest.
"Lately, there is a serious issue of false advertising and a breach of media ethics," he pointed out.
A motion was tabled for the need to establish a regional coalition to function as a committee for ethical journalism at the end of Saturday's session.