Malaysia’s government is considering tightening its already strict laws on printing to include online publications as well.
In late January 2011, the secretary general of the Home Ministry Mahmood Adam was quoted saying that the Home Ministry was considering amending the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), changing the definition of publication to include Internet content, including blogs, Facebook and YouTube content.
The announcement immediately drew huge criticism from the online community who believe that the Internet should not be controlled.
The Member of Parliament for Seputeh, Teresa Kok, published a press statement in her blog, where she stated that the Government is trying to suppress freedom of speech in Malaysia.
This move is not surprising because the Government is increasingly threatened by the rise and rise of online media as an agent for change and democratization in Malaysia, as demonstrated by the watershed March 2008 election results.
Therefore, the Government’s rush to have the amendments passed by the Dewan Rakyat in March 2011 is but yet another measure to further strangle the voice of the people and tighten the Government’s control prior to the Sarawak state elections and the upcoming general elections, plunging Malaysia further towards being an authoritarian regime.
The Home Ministry’s excuses of wanting to “plug loopholes” and “correct weaknesses” are nothing but a sham to further violate Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which promises citizens the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
Blogger Fuad Hikaru also believes that censorship of the Internet is not a positive move, because Malaysians should be given the freedom to see both sides of an issue before taking sides.
Unlike in 1997 when we would primarily be updated with news only from newspapers and TV which are (still is) controlled by the ruling government, we now have almost unlimited access (save for some unreliable broadband services) to the internet, feeding us news from all sides, giving us the opportunity to form our own understandings based on issues and cases are presented, that will affect our voting decisions. The vast amount of information grants us powers to literally choose the next government, which are among the reasons why the Act is to be amended soon, that is to block views which are likely to cause political instability.
What I’m trying to point out is pretty simple – while we may have different political beliefs we also need to understand that we can’t just be mindless robots. Most of the times we need to flip the coin to see the other side, that way we will be able to see the bigger picture.
The Nut Graph also published two columns on why further censorship is not a step in the right direction, and on why regulating the Internet is not easy.
However, the following day Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Nazri Aziz said that under the Bill of Guarantees of the Malaysian Multimedia Super Corridor, the government has pledged not to censor the Internet. However, he also pointed out that the pledge can be ignored if national security is threatened.