Reporters Without Borders calls on the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to immediately rescind the order it issued on 26 August to TMNet, the country’s biggest ISP, and to 20 other Malaysia ISPs to block access to the Malaysia Today news website (http://www.malaysia-today.net).
“With the media subject to close government control, websites constitute one of the few areas of free speech in Malaysia,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We remind the commission that under the rules of democracy, only a court should be able to censor a website. This order, which was not the result of any complaint brought before the courts, is not only questionable but also disproportionate, as it was issued because of comments posted on the site about the articles. We call for Malaysia Today to be unblocked at once.”
The website has been notified that it is being blocked under section 263 of the Communications and Multimedia Act, which says an ISP must obey a written request from the commission “in the national interest.” However, section 3 of the same law says: “Nothing in this act shall be construed as permitting the censorship of the Internet.”
The government also undertook to “ensure that there is no Internet censorship” in the charter of the “Multimedia Super Corridor,” a business consortium formed on the initiative of the ministry of communications with the aim of promoting new technologies. The government endorsed the charter in 1996.
Nazri Abdul Aziz, a minister with responsibility for justice, said in July 2007 that the government would not hesitate to use the Internal Security Act against online activists. Under the ISA, someone who is deemed to have threatened state security can be held without trial for two years.
Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin has created a “mirror” website at which Malaysia Today can still be accessed from within Malaysia. Its address is http://mt.harapanmalaysia.com. Aged 58 and known as “RPK,” Raja Petra is the country’s first online journalist to be charged under the 1948 Sedition Act. He was arrested on 6 May for linking a senior government official to the murder of a young woman.
He was released on bail three days later and is due to appear in court on 10 September. He faces a possible three-year sentence for violating a Sedition Act provision that outlaws inciting “hatred, doubt or contempt” for any government leader or member.
Malaysia is ranked 124th out of 169 countries in the Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index.
Read the Communications and Multimedia Act