The Malaysian government is unfortunately planning to follow in the foot-steps of China in filtering the Internet to block certain websites that it considers ‘undesirable’. This is a grave step back in this modern age when information knows no borders.
This development is certainly alarming to Malaysians who treasure their freedom of expression and value media freedom. The government’s move is tantamount to criminalising freedom of expression and dissent. There are no two ways about it.
Censorship of the Internet certainly goes against the solemn guarantee given by the Mahathir administration to Malaysia’s Internet users and foreign investors – that there would be no censorship. Strangely, Mahathir is lost for words: he hasn’t said anything in defence of his solemn pledge so far.
There are a number of reasons why the government is heading this way. For one, there is much dissent expressed within Malaysia’s blogging community, which results in political embarrassment and, to a certain extent, electoral losses for the government. The government is unable to engage the bloggers in a meaningful debate to counter their critical views.
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Secondly, the presence of independent news portals, websites and critical blogs has made a mockery of much of the mainstream media that are closely aligned to the government. These mainstream media often engage in distorting the reality of Malaysian society. Their attempts have been exposed time and again as government propaganda without any substance.
This phenomenon brings forth a situation where the credibility gap between the government and the people has grown wider. This is not good politically as it encourages unhappiness and grievances to fester.
What is even worse and intolerable is that, if the plan goes ahead, Malaysia’s democratic space will be further restricted for political reasons to perpetuate Barisan Nasional’s power.
Aliran therefore calls upon the government to drop this crazy plan to censor the Internet completely and behave sensibly in the larger interest of democracy and freedom.
Dr Mustafa K Anuar and Anil Netto
7 August 2009