- Published on Tuesday, 05 August 2014 11:53
KUALA LUMPUR - Utusan Malaysia has joined the budding push to censor Internet in Malaysia, basing its support on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s change of heart towards unfiltered access to information online.
Citing the former prime minister’s volte face to the guarantees made during his administration to keep the Internet uncensored, the editors of the Umno-owned daily said this sufficed to show that authorities must begin to curb freedom of information online.
“If he (Dr Mahathir) felt ICT (information communication technology) required full freedom before, why does he feel otherwise now? There must a reason he is worried,” Utusan’s editors wrote using their shared Awang Selamat pen name.
The Malay-language daily also repeated the assertions it made across the weekend, suggesting that unfettered exchange of information and opinions using social media could lead to worse ethnic tensions than the “racial tragedy” at the end of the 60s.
While the paper did not specifically mention what this “tragedy” was, threats and reminders of the May 13, 1969 riots have permeated public discourse in recent years due to strained communal ties and politics.
“If the race tragedy at the end of the 60s occurred due to rumours spread by word of mouth, the current method of communication is far more advanced,” Awang Selamat wrote.
Hundreds of Malaysians are estimated to have died during the May 13, 1969 clashes between the Malays and ethnic Chinese.
Although ostensibly triggered by the results of Election 1969, it was rooted in ethnic tensions between the two communities.
The newspaper then insisted that Internet regulator Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) must have a solution to the purported issue, disputing Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek remarks that his ministry was helpless to restrict social media.
The guarantee of Internet freedom was made as part of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) charter that Dr Mahathir’s administration introduced to encourage the uptake of ICT.
Following previous hints that this should be reviewed, Dr Mahathir last week openly said that censorship of the internet in Malaysia was now necessary, after social network Facebook blocked access to his blog due to complaints over his post on Jews.
He is pressing the Najib administration for a policy change, arguing that today’s changing situation warrants the introduction of controls to stem the spread of offensive material online as it could threaten national security.
Malaysia already restricts access to the Internet, with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) announcing last year that 6,640 websites have been blocked since 2008 for pornography, malicious content, or infringed copyrights.
The MCMC argues that the restrictions are not censorship of information per se, but meant to protect Malaysians.