Nine NGOs demand internet freedom

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Source: FMT News

Nine NGOs urge all stakeholders to defend internet freedom and to keep it free from arbitrary and abusive regulations.

Nine NGOs urge all stakeholders to defend internet freedom and to keep it free from arbitrary and abusive regulations.

KUALA LUMPUR: Nine organizations, led by the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia, want all stakeholders to defend internet freedom and to keep it free from arbitrary and abusive regulations. “We must remind the powers that be that Malaysia is committed to no censorship of the internet when the industry started,” said the nine in a joint statement. “Any policy change must be done with thorough negotiation and consultation with civil society.”

“The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) should not have discretion to block content.”

Instead, said the organizations, its actions should be governed by its ten policy objectives.

These include creating a vibrant civil community, establishing Malaysia as a major global centre and hub for communications and multimedia information and content services, and creating robust applications environment for end users. “Decisions to restrict freedom of information and expression should follow due process of and law and international standards and norms,” said the statement. “It should be clear, least restrictive, necessary and proportionate. This at the very minimum requires a court order.”

The nine were expressing regret that the government had done little consultation with stakeholders on the proposed changes to the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. “This proves yet again the absence of political will for open and democratic law making processes in Malaysia.”

The public stands to be most affected by the proposed amendments, warned the statement. “We constitute the majority of the internet population, and as such, it’s critical that our views and voices are duly recognized and reflected.”

The statement was in agreement that the laws governing the internet need to be reviewed for them to have stronger provisions for privacy and protection for freedom of expression. “However, these are not being prioritized.”

“Instead, we see a pattern of reviewing laws to extend the powers of the executive to conveniently target media, political opponents and individual critics.”

The statement, elsewhere, cited industry-led research in 13 countries including in Asia, which found that increased regulatory requirements would act as a significant barrier to investment. “Specifically, 79 per cent of investors are uncomfortable to invest in countries where freedom of expression was restricted or highly regulated.”

The majority were wary of requirements on content platform providers to comply with content restricting requirements, while investors expressed discomfort on investing in internet businesses that would be compelled to remove content without a court order. “Regulation that requires additional infrastructure such as data retention of users by internet service or content providers would also act as cost and administrative barriers,” said the statement. “Malaysia’s internet economy is a growing industry and arbitrary and broad laws present serious threats to its progress.”