Malaysian government shuts up bloggersWednesday, July 25, 2007 at 21:15 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, malaysia, Press freedom | 5 Comments
The government controlled Malaysian news agency Bernama writes (via Susan Loone) about the government’s plan to take “tough action against web bloggers who write on sensitive issues which include insulting the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Islam”:
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the government would not hesitate to use the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 121b of the Penal Code against these bloggers.
He said the government had exercised restraint in the matter for a long time and the time had come for it to act according to those laws.
“I want to issue a warning that the time has come for us to take action against them (bloggers who make disparaging statements). We have the right and we will do it. We have been very patient,” he said when winding up debate on the Electronic Government Activities Bill 2007 in the Dewan Negara here. The bill was passed.
As much of the main stream media in Malaysia is under government control there is not much of press freedom as we understand it in the country. Blogs are the only source that could provide a somewhat credible and critical coverage of news and current events in the country. This explains the government’s eagerness to get at critical bloggers.
The owner of the independent news site Malaysia Today, Raja Petra, was taken in for questioning at a police station on Wednesday and released after eight hours. He was faced with accusations that articles and comments posted on his website “insulted the Yang diPertuan Agong and Islam”. Insulting the monarch and religion is a standard phrase commonly used to describe critical web contents.
As Bernama reports, alleged insults of the monarch and islam were also quoted by the coalition senator Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib, who filed the compalint against Malaysia Today. Berasa quotes the senator as saying:
“The liberal writing on the portal can cause young minds to think that there are no rules and sensitivities governing articles and that anyone can write on any matter in the name of individual freedom,” he said.
“At a time when the government is introducing the system of electronic government, there are unhealthy developments in the form of publications on the web such as this, articles which can be read not only by our society but also the whole world and anyone for that matter, even children,” he added.
Anyone writing “on any matter in the name of individual freedom” is called freedom of speech elsewhere, senator. It must be a pain in his senatorial ass that the whole World gets to read this “liberal writing”. It would be so much more comfortable if only one official truth was spread around the World from Malaysia.
This is why the Malaysian government is doing their best to shut up critical bloggers. Which of course will only put lacking press freedom and freedom of speech in Malaysia on focus but I guess the government is unable to understand this.
Edit: Oh dear! It looks like quite a lot of good comments intended to this post have ended up here. I have no idea why this happened. I can just refer to read the comments there.