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Bloggers under threat of state control

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Charter 2000-Aliran is deeply concerned by the government’s potential move to impose mandatory registration of bloggers who use websites hosted in Malaysia. This is an obvious attempt to control and curb local blogs and to create a culture of fear among bloggers.

Deputy Energy, Water and Communications Minister Shaziman Abu Mansor told Parliament yesterday that the government was considering this measure to purportedly “prevent the spread of negative or malicious content on the Internet”.

Recent attempts by certain government ministers and politicians to smear bloggers are a prelude to possible moves to control and censor the Internet. These officials’ reactions suggest that certain analyses and breaking news on blogs and websites have hit home and proved to be too ‘painful’ for certain quarters in government.

Although we do not deny that certain elements could have put malicious content on the Internet, we certainly do not welcome any attempt to register bloggers. It is tantamount, we reiterate, to state censorship and control. It would also violate the government’s pledge “to ensure no censorship of the Internet”, which was part of the 10-point “Bill of guarantees” aimed at attracting foreign investors to the Multimedia Super Corridor.

In fact, the growing popularity of blogging, we would argue, is in part the result of too much state control and censorship over the mainstream media. Such control of traditional media has prompted concerned Malaysians to turn to the Internet to express their views and to make public revelations of matters the government would rather not disclose. The government has been hiding behind the Official Secrets Act for too long and has not allowed the truth to prevail. Now it is trying to limit the new space available on the Internet for that truth to reach Malaysians.

The only way for the government to counter so-called malicious content and “negative reporting” is to immediately put forward its own official version of the facts. But this the government is not prone to do because it is not efficient nor are ruling politicians particularly savvy in using the Internet to set the record straight. For the government to make fresh attempts to rein in bloggers is to belittle, if not ridicule and tarnish, the good work done by many conscientious bloggers, especially those who dare to identify themselves.

Instead of acting in a retrogressive manner, the government should move forward with the times. It should face up to the challenges of globalisation and the Internet by exercising more transparency and less censorship.

Dr Mustafa K Anuar & Anil Netto

Coordinators, Charter 2000-Aliran

5 April 2007

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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