Putrajaya’s media clampdown is likely to worsen, lawyer Syahredzan Johan says, as the federal government already has plans for tougher regulations on online content.
He said amendments to the Sedition Act last year, though not yet in force, would allow the deputy public prosecutor (DPP) to obtain court orders to instruct websites to remove content deemed seditious.
“Last year, there was (an) amendment to the Sedition Act, once it comes into force, the DPP can actually go to court and get a prohibition order and get websites to take down so-called seditious content.
“And they don’t even need to prove that the content is seditious, all they need to show is that it appears seditious,” he said at forum titled “Media shackled, democracy dead?” in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
The forum was held following the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s (MCMC) block on local access to The Malaysian Insider website.
Putrajaya has also blocked local access to other sites and blogs critical of the government, such as Sarawak Report and Malaysian Chronicle.
Syahredzan said Putrajaya could also be expected to come down harder on online content, as it has plans to register blogs.
He said Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak was wrong in saying that freedom of speech was a privilege instead of right.
“The problem is that these people don’t see this thing as rights, they don’t see it as guaranteed to each and every one of us.
“That’s why you have what we have today where websites are blocked.”
Concurring with Syahredzan was blogger and former New Straits Times Press editor-in-chief Datuk A. Kadir Jasin, who said the situation could only change if Malaysia had a different prime minister.
“I can only see the situation getting worse, the control of media, in particular the online media, will only increase. That’s the only way for the government, the prime minister, to remain in power.”
Kadir said this was because the prime minister could no longer rely on the mainstream media which were controlled by or linked to government entities.
“The mainstream media is losing circulation, viewership, listeners.
“So one way to even out this uneven media environment is to control the flourishing online media,” Kadir said.
Parti Amanah Negara’s Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa said the freedom of speech and expression were constitutional rights which were guaranteed.
“When we say that it’s a privilege, we beg for that privilege, (but) freedom of speech or expression is not something you beg for, it is your right as citizen of this country,” he said.
Other speakers at the forum were founder of Sarawak Report Clare Rewcastle-Brown, DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang, Malaysiakini CEO Premesh Chandran and PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar. – March 5, 2016.