Internet freedom: It’s not that bad lah!
|Zan Azlee is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer, New Media practitioner and lecturer. He runs Fat Bidin Media www.fatbidin.com|
OCT 5 — Malaysia and Libya have the same Internet freedom ranking, which is 23 out of 47 countries. We trail behind countries such as the Philippines, Ukraine, Georgia, Uganda and Kyrgyzstan.
This is according to a recent study done by Freedom House, an independent watchdog organisation that monitors freedom around the world, called Freedom on the Net 2012.
In fact, the report even puts Malaysia under its list of countries at risk, which consists of another five countries (Russia, Sri Lanka, Libya, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Rwanda).
Malaysia definitely didn’t start out this way when it came to Internet freedom. It started with former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s declaration that the country would never censor the Internet.
Fast forward about a decade later, Malaysia has sort of still stayed true to the promise made by the old man even if he has retired from office.
But I guess the powers-that-be didn’t anticipate the good that would come to the Malaysian people and its society with having an Internet that is free.
The 12th general election in 2008 was proof of this as many believed that Internet freedom was what caused Barisan Nasional to lose four states and its two-thirds majority in Parliament.
And so, they started devising about a gazillion other strategies that they could use and manipulate to slowly curtail that promised freedom.
And these same gazillion strategies are what Freedom House says is affecting Malaysia’s Internet freedom ranking adversely this year.
Section 114A, which I have written about, is at the top of the list. It basically means the owner of the computer or even a wifi network can be liable for content posted by others.
Another law is the Security Offences (Special Measures Act) which apparently allows the authorities to access information without a court order.
And, there has also been an amendment to the Penal Code which declares that activities “detrimental to parliamentary democracy” is a crime. I wonder how that definition works.
And that’s not yet mentioning the civil lawsuits against individuals like bloggers and online new sites that put pressure on them (actually, this is mentioned in the report too!).
And then there are the cybertroopers! Oh, the cybertroopers! Need I say more about them? I guess not!
The report did mention that news content sites have proliferated in Malaysia at a very encouraging rate, a vibrant blogosphere and the Internet penetration rate is at a healthy 60 per cent.
So, I have to admit that Malaysia can’t be as bad as Freedom House claims she is. If we take a closer look at the list, we’re way ahead of countries like Iran, Syria and Myanmar.
And if it’s one thing Malaysians are good at, it’s being thankful for the positive things in life. So I guess it’s pretty positive that we’re not worse off than these oppressive countries.
Our points (keep in mind that an increase means a negative trajectory), according to the report, actually worsened from 41 in 2011 to 43 in 2012. Hey, be thankful it didn’t go to 44!
But seriously, how bad can we be? I mean, our prime minister even had a cool, laid-back, Google Hangout session a couple days ago.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.