28 August, 2008

Cry, the beloved country.

Cyberspace crackdown ? Malaysia has blocked access to a popular news Web site that has often run afoul of authorities for its sensational political reporting.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the government's industry regulator, ordered local Internet service providers on Wednesday to cut off access to the Malaysia Today site, said a commission official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said that the prominent political website Malaysia Today had been banned because it published "libellous, defamatory and slanderous" content, according to Malaysiakini.

The Star reported that the ISPs were acting under a directive of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

The notices were sent out on Tuesday in accordance with Section 263 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.

“This means that MCMC is allowed to block any particular website which has committed acts that contravene the local laws of the country, for example, sedition,” a source told the newspaper.

This move is going to put the government in the firing line. Critics are going to argue that the MCMC’s action contravenes Section 3 of the Act which prohibits any censorship of the Internet.

Also, when the government launched the Multimedia Super Corridor, it promised not to allow any censorship of the Internet.

It looks like Malaysia-Today is the only target of the government’s sudden crackdown on blogosphere. So far.

“At the moment, even Anwar Ibrahim’s blog has been spared. So it seems to be Malaysia-Today only, you know,” its editor, Raja Petra Kamarudin, told The Malaysian Insider.

The controversial blogger said that he was surprised by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission's (MCMC) order to 19 Internet service providers (ISPs) to block his website.

“Well, I expected them to do something, but I just didn’t know what they were going to do. But in Malaysia we’re always expecting to expect anything, you know what I mean?”

He also managed to set up an alternative blog site at mt.harapanmalaysia.com and passed the word of the new DNS address through SMSes.

The decision to shut down Malaysia Today is totally unnecessary and unconvincing. Sue him, arrest him, charge him or whatever but Raja Petra Kamaruddin has the right to operate his website, writes Wong Chun Wai.

He has the right to write whatever he wants and if he steps out of the boundary, there are enough laws to be used against him. In a democracy, we don't have to agree with each other but we must defend the right of everyone to speak up - including RPK and other voices of dissent. It is not the job of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to decide what is seditious or libellious or slanderous. Let the proper authorities do the job. The MCMC order to internet service providers to block his site is myopic and ridiculous. It goes against the Multimedia Super Corridor Bill of Guarantees which promised no censorship. If it can happen to RPK, it can also happen to other Malaysian bloggers. The MCMC should just end this silliness.

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