When things are in a muddled mess, the muzzle is clamped on those who have privy to soap boxes. Such moves which stifle press freedom and even that of internet censorship are furtive attempts to force the media’s hand to comply with their requirements and standards.
Recent events indicate how the Malaysian authorities perceive freedom of expression differently. Some publications have had difficulties renewing their publications license including Suara Keadilan and DAP’s Rocket last year.
On 16 August 2010, The Malaysian Insider reported that the Najib’s administration has started to evaluate the feasibility of putting an Internet filter to block “undesirable websites”, although it backed off from a similar plan after a public outcry. Apparently, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) had commissioned KPMG to carry out the “Study on Positive and Safe Use of the Internet” to evaluate, among others, “the implementation of Internet Filter at Internet Gateway level” and “the impact of the various methods to Malaysian Internet users and Malaysia economy”.
According to The Malay Mail (16 December 2010), Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum told the Dewan Rakyat that Malaysia does not intend implement an Internet filter similar to China’s Green Dam project but would leave it to the discretion of Internet users to practice good usage, rather than use censorship to cull abuse of the Internet. He clarified that a survey by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to study on China’s Internet filter operation was simply, a “study”.
Malaysians depend on the Internet for obtaining and disseminating information. A clear cut example is the role of the Internet in the 2008 unprecedented victory of the Opposition in the General Elections. As such, it is no surprise that the BN government has stepped up efforts to make its presence felt online. Recently, the Centre for Independent Journalism reported that Barisan Nasional (BN) will redouble its efforts to control online content this year in a bid to preserve the Malay vote base.
In a report titled ‘Freedom of Expression in Malaysia 2010’, CIJ noted that there are worrying signs that Pakatan Rakyat may also be susceptible to attempting to control the media. Several examples were cited.
Since 2009, Malaysians have witnessed the increased use of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) last year to silence critics online. The authorities concerned have carried out investigations against news portals and bloggers for making allegedly “offensive comments”.
Once again, such developments have shown us that the regime is deeply entrenched in archaic methods of tight control which can never work in a borderless world. Do all these developments mean that the sun is setting for the alternative media so that it can wield no influence on the rakyat?
However, the more the BN government tries to muzzle the media (both conventional and alternative) and oppress dissident voices, the more the rakyat will be unconvinced by the establishment. If indeed the BN wanted to reduce racial overtones or negative messages, then why hasn’t anything been done PERKASA and Utusan Malaysia?
Sadly, the world is watching the many tragic and comic antics of the regime because no matter how much they want to muzzle the media or the net, news spreads almost instantly in this connected society. This is further damaged when the regime flip-flops and and makes contradicting statements.
The BN’s strategy to regulate the internet is very much like how it manages Malaysia – a muddled mess!