28 September, 2010

Malaysia should ditch press censorship which is a damper on economic growth.

A co-founder of online encyclopedia Wikipedia said on a visit to Malaysia today that the country should ditch censorship which is a damper on economic growth.

Jimmy Wales said censorship was counter-productive for Malaysia, which ranked 131 out of 175 nations on the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index because of its tight controls on print and broadcast media.

"This is a country that has a fairly mixed record... there is still some censorship in this country and I think we are beginning to see that it is no longer an effective strategy, certainly not an effective strategy when we think about economic growth," he said.

"When you think about making sure that the people have the information they need, make good decisions in their lives, it's absolutely important that we have a very open flow of information," he told a financial conference.

"I want to write that information (on sites like user-generated Wikipedia) so that my fellow citizens have the knowledge they need so they can't be oppressed."

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who took office in the mainly Muslim country in April last year, promised to promote openness and transparency but has since faced accusations that his administration is trying to silence critics.

On Monday, British tycoon Richard Branson told a different conference in Kuala Lumpur that the ongoing sodomy trial against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was discouraging investors from coming to Malaysia.

Anwar, a former deputy premier who was sacked and jailed on separate sex and corruption counts a decade ago, has said that the new allegations - of illicit relations with a young male aide - have been concocted to end his career.

Major newspapers and broadcasters are closely linked with the ruling coalition, so the Internet has become a lively forum for dissent and debate in Malaysia.

Unlike the mainstream press, the web and online media have remained relatively free, despite occasional raids, bans and government criticism.

Last Friday, police detained political cartoonist Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque - better known as Zunar - over his new comic book, which has a caricature of Najib's wife on the front cover and contains cartoons on numerous controversial issues such as Anwar's sodomy trial and police shootings.

(From Malaysiakini)

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