BY ROBYN CHOI
There are indications that new laws will be introduced in Parliament later this month to amend the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988 (CMA). Consultations were said to have taken place between the government departments and agencies. Todate, civil society organisations, especially those involved in looking into freedom of expression in particular media freedom, have not been informed as to the nature of the amendments, let alone consulted.
What has been indicated thus far are that the amendments are likely to be introduced to regulate content online and in respect of requirements for licensing of certain content providers/websites (both local and foreign) especially news content providers, registration of blogs, increased penalties on offences and provisions concerning internet service providers.
If the indicators so far are correct as to the nature of the CMA Bill, every one will be affected : a) individually, b) interest groups like students, researchers, teachers, professional bodies, women’s groups, business networks etc.c) various Malaysian online communities especially dealing with marginalised and fringe minority groups, d) businesses, those who sell and advertise products and services online, those who invests on online applications and online technology, those who directly invest in content online, and e) internet service providers like TMNET, Maxis, Digi etc.
Let us consider the trend on how our government had regulated online content in the past two years. In the past two years, the government had severely interfered with freedom of speech on the internet through increased blocking of online media sites both local and international, intensified questioning and/or arresting of activists, journalists, lawyers and cartoonists over online activities and the passing of a series of tougher laws with stiffer penalties dealing with online expression. Last year alone no less than 1,263 have been blocked – 632 websites based on the application of local law enforcement agencies, while 631 websites were blocked for offences under the CMA. We have been told that from January to February 2016, a further 399 websites have been blocked, and 22 persons called in for questioning by the Multimedia Communications Commission Malaysia (MCMC).
According to Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak, among the 399 websites blocked in January & February include online gambling, scams, prostitution, and websites that contain obscene, lewd, false content and others. While we may agree that websites offering vice ought to be blocked, what about the non-vice websites that have been blocked? Read more