Malaysia

Rais backs Dr M call for curbs to Internet freedom

By Lisa J. Ariffin
June 05, 2012

SHAH ALAM, June 5 — Datuk Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim expressed support today for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s call for regulations to control the absolute freedom that exists on the Internet.

The information, communications and culture minister told a press conference his ministry welcomed the former prime minister’s view and agreed that the “cyberworld should now be subjected to perusal by society”.

He cited cheating, gambling, phising for particulars and spreading pornography on the Internet as criminal offences and “therefore to disregard this purely for sake of freedom on the Internet is not a true thing”.

“The principle we must recognise is that the laws of the land must be respected,” he said after launching the 1 Malaysia Social Media Convention.

“If the laws are enforced, it doesn’t mean that we are censoring the Internet,” he added.

Rais (picture) said his ministry was “now busy working out ways how our society in Malaysia should be hardened for the sake of goodness and for lasting peace and prosperity”.

“The value system of our country has been such we should always recognise it to be pivotal to develop the civilisation that we want.”

On Sunday, Dr Mahathir told The New Sunday Times in an interview that countries should now enforce some form of regulatory control to block “filth” and punish those who corrupt the minds of Internet users.

Dr Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years until 2003, had promised that Malaysia would never censor the Internet in any way as part of a pledge to draw investors to develop the Multimedia Super Corridor.

He had repeated this stand last at the Third Annual Malaysian Student Leaders Summit in August last year, although he then suggested disciplinary action on some aspects of Net abuse.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak voiced similar sentiments last year and vowed his administration would not resort to Internet censorship but would instead engage further with Malaysians when acknowledging that people now use social networking sites to express outrage.

Social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter, has been partly credited with organising the Egyptian uprising that eventually led to the resignation of strongman Hosni Mubarak as president.

The Egyptian government had briefly banned Twitter, a micro-blogging site, as a result of massive protests arranged via social networking sites.

There have been two previous attempts by the government to implement filters similar to China’s “Green Dam” here. Both were met with vociferous protests by Internet users that forced the government to backtrack on the efforts.

Growing Internet access and the ability of the opposition to disseminate information online has been cited as one of the factors for Barisan Nasional’s worst electoral effort in Election 2008.

Since then, the ruling coalition has been working to narrow the gap, including training “cyber troopers” and providing social media training to its members.