We are heartened that Energy, Water and Communications Minister Lim Keng Yaik has cleared up the haze of confusion generated by Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin over the freedom of the Internet.
Lim said that the government would keep the previous adminstration’s pledge not to censor the Internet, as reported on theSun's website :
"It's difficult (to control the content) especially when you had given a promise when promoting the MSC (Multimedia Super Corridor). You have to go back on our word. Part of the article of guarantees of MSC was no censorship," he said after launching "EZ 2 Own Broadband PC' programme.
One of the bill of guarantees under the MSC conceptualised in 1996 was that the government will not institute Internet censorship.
Asked if the ministry planned to regulate it in future, he reiterated: "Not that I am aware of. Not at the present moment because we've given a bill of guarantees to the MSC."
As far the demarcation of ministerial responsibilities is concerned, Lim and earlier deputy Internal Security Minister Fu have both put the Information Minister in his rightful place. The Information Ministry is only responsible for Bernama and RTM.
Fu had clarified that under the existing ministerial portfolios, the overseeing of newspapers comes under the Internal Security Ministry. And Lim has now confirmed that responsibility for the Internet comes under his Energy, Water and Communications Ministry.
To allay Zainuddin’s fears that these ministerial clarifications could be mere speculation on the Internet, we hope that the mainstream newspapers tomorrow will publish them prominently.
Hopefully, this will deter any future overzealous attempts to cross the boundaries of responsibilities in an attempt to exert official control over websites and blogs.
Now that Lim has assured Malaysians that the Internet would not be censored, we hope that the government will turn its attention to repealing the Printing Presses and Publications Act.
This would allow the newspapers to compete on a level playing field with news websites and blog. We are sure that the press is ready to exercise such freedom with maturity and responsibility.