Home Civil Society Voices 2013 Civil Society Voices Online regulation will stifle internet freedom, dissent

Online regulation will stifle internet freedom, dissent

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The Centre for Independent Journalism views any online licensing effort as a means to control online media and in effect, an effort to stifle dissenting opinions.


In a media monitoring exercise of GE13 coverage run by CIJ in collaboration with University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, of all types of media which were monitored — online, newspapers, television and state media (Bernama and RTM) — online news portals performed the best, giving approximately equal quantities and quality of coverage to both BN and Pakatan Rakyat.

CIJ believes a key contributing factor is that online media — unlike its print and broadcast counterparts — is not regulated by the state and has more room to practise independence and fairness in reporting.

Any form of online censorship, however indirect (eg through licensing), will affect access to information to media portals, currently the choice of urban, young and middle-class reading public — the very constituencies which contributed heavily to the BN government’s worst showing in the recent general elections.

We hope Information Minister Shabery Cheek’s suggestion to study how online media can be regulated is not another step to teach Malaysians a lesson in voting for Pakatan Rakyat collectively more than for BN.

At best, the Minister’s mulling over licensing is a cowardly idea lacking in imagination. There is no reason to copy Singapore’s move, given our neighbour’s poor standing in any world press freedom ranking.

Minister Shabery Cheek mentioned that social media has become mainstream media. Has the Minister thought about how to implement licensing on Twitter and Facebook accounts — run by commercial Internet giants — which have more than 50000 followers/likes? Singapore’s licensing move covers websites that report regularly on issues relating to Singapore and those with 50000 unique visitors from Singapore for a month over two months

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Online media enjoys strong support from netizens — even for portals which require subscription. They are a source of news not just for those in Malaysia but also for the international community. Any form of licensing imposed on online media will be strongly opposed by civil society in Malaysia and the borderless online community.

The Information, Communication and Culture Ministry is one of two bodies responsible to uphold MSC Malaysia’s Bill of Guarantee No. 7 — to ensure no censorship of the Internet — is respected. It needs to take steps to promote the exchange rather than curb the flow of information on the Internet.

The Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ) is a non-profit organisation that aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free, where all peoples will enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek and impart information.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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najib manaukau
7 Jun 2013 7.44am

Why was it that the restriction on the use of the internet was not introduced before the GE and only now after the election ? This is clearly an attempt to introduce regulations to restrict the use of the internet and also to restrict the public being informed and also the world to know what is going on in the country. Or is this the way to national reconciliation Najib is talking ?
Just a reminder, Najib, you must not forget the one million affordable houses you promise to build for the people of Malaysia before the election ? The clock is ticking and it will show what kind of promises you have made, you now have one month less before the next election ? Or you know you will not be around to worry about all the promises especially this one million affordable houses ? Or are you and your team of rapscallions are too busy trying to introduce more new taxes to raise enough funds to build the houses and to make up the billions you borrowed to give away before the election !

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