No-Internet-censorship pledge under threat?

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Charter 2000-Aliran is deeply disturbed by Deputy Internal Security Minister Fu Ah Kiow’s warped logic when he highlighted the purported concern of the mainstream media over what they regard as an uneven playing field for both the print and Internet media.

Fu argued that there were things reported by the Internet media that the print media could not publish because of the constraints of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA). Thus, he added, to avoid 'double standards', there might be a need to amend the law so that the Internet media would also come under the PPPA

If the PPPA is amended, the Abdullah administration would undo the Mahathir administration’s pledge – made to foreign investors in particular and ordinary Malaysians in general – not to censor the Internet.

An intelligent approach to this problem obviously would be for the government to widen the scope of journalism in Malaysia to allow mainstream media journalists to exercise a fair degree of investigative but responsible journalism. Thinking the supposedly unthinkable, the government could even repeal the PPPA itself.

The deputy minister’s remarks are rather worrying, given that a few days ago Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi had warned the mainstream media not to compete with websites and blogs that he considered to be less credible because of their supposedly speculative and sensational nature.

Abdullah’s comment was unfair because he tarred the whole Internet community with such a broad brush, lumping together certain irresponsible or racy websites and blogs with socially responsible sites such as Malaysiakini.

His disparaging remarks make us wonder whether they are in any way related to recent developments where websites such as Malaysiakini have provided considerable space for Mahathir’s critical views in his ongoing spat with Abdullah. There have also been other revelations on other sites in the form of reports, letters and bold criticism from the public that may have undermined the credibility of the Abdullah administration.

We view the talk of amending the PPPA and Abdullah’s unfavourable remarks about websites as running counter to his earlier pledge to listen to the people’s views – regardless of whether they are found in the print or Internet media. In this respect, he should open up the media and allow for more public interaction, participation and debate as part of the overall democratisation of Malaysian society.

 

Dr Mustafa K Anuar & Anil Netto

Coordinators, Charter 2000-Aliran

27 July 2006

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