From porn to politics: Malaysian ISPs aid censorship by blocking 39 sites, says study

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Graphics by the Malay Mail Online.

Graphics by the Malay Mail Online.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 21 — Malaysian internet service providers (ISPs) facilitated censorship in the country by tampering with internet connections and blocking 39 websites, according to “The State of Internet Censorship in Malaysia” study released yesterday.

The study by local open technology initiative Sinar Project and global censorship monitor Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) found the websites blocked included not only pornography, but those on religious and political criticism, and even news sites.

“This study provides data that serves as evidence of the DNS blocking of 39 different websites in Malaysia. Since block pages were detected for all of these sites, their censorship is confirmed and undeniable.

“The blocked websites include news outlets, blogs, and a popular publishing platform (medium.com),” said the report. Read more

Nine NGOs demand internet freedom

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.” Read more

Online Freedom and the soon-to-be proposed Bill to amend the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) – Robyn Choi

BY ROBYN CHOI
(SECRETARY-GENERAL, HAKAM)

blocked sites in malaysia
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

Malaysia Considers Caning People Who Reveal State Secrets

Source: WSJ

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—A push by Malaysia’s top law-enforcement official to use a British colonial-era punishment on people who reveal state secrets is dividing the government and sparking concerns in civil society.

Malaysia already administers the punishment—caning—to thousands of people a year who are convicted of crimes such as drug trafficking, rape, robbery and firearms possession. Human-rights groups and others deplore the practice, in which prisoners are whipped with a rattan stick, as inhumane. The government says it reduces recidivism; it hasn’t provided statistics to support that.

Now, as Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration tries to contain a graft scandal at a state investment fund, his attorney general is proposing to also use caning on people found guilty of violating Malaysia’s Official Secrets Act. Under the act, officials can declare any document or information to be secret, restricted or classified. The government has said it suspects secret documents related to the investment fund were leaked. Read more

Government should embrace the Internet, not impose more restrictions to stifle news portals and blogs ― Lawyers for Liberty

Source: The Malay Mail Online

MARCH 23 ― Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the Communications and Multimedia Ministry’s proposal for online news portals and political blogs to be registered with the government, thus effectively restricting further the ever-shrinking democratic space in the country.

The fact that Minister Salleh Said Keruak distinguishes between political and non-political blogs for registration is extremely telling that the real purpose for the registration is to quell critical and dissenting news and views against the government.

We also note with extreme concern that such underhanded tactics are not new, as in the recent past, The Edge, The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini, Sarawak Report and other independent press and blogs had been targeted with investigations, arrests or blocks on the Internet while pro-government press like Utusan Malaysia and blogs have been allowed to publish freely.

There are no good and valid reasons for registering news websites and blogs other than an attempt to control news and information critical of the government. Such behaviour is undemocratic, a grave abuse of power and in breach of the ‘no-Internet-censorship’ policy which is protected in both the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and MSC Malaysia’s Bill of Guarantees. Read more

Malaysia disconnecting from online freedoms — Susan Leong & Terence Lee

Source: East Asia Forum

BY SUSAN LEONG & TERENCE LEE

Not long ago, the Malaysian government thought that mastery of the internet was a path towards economic development. In February 1996, it launched the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), essentially a special economic zone, to entice high-technology corporations like Microsoft to set up shop in Malaysia.Malaysian children surf the Internet. (Photo: AAP)

To ensure the MSC’s appeal to prospective technology investors, restrictions on both the information technology market and on online expression were loosened. Whereas television, radio and newspapers remained restricted by laws like the Printing Presses and Publications Act, concessions to freedom of business ownership, employment quotas and censorship of the internet were made for the MSC.

Yet recently, two acts — the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA Act) and the Sedition Act — have been used repeatedly to contain the zeal with which Malaysians have taken to the internet. Read more

The press has become too free for the government of Malaysia – Jahabar Sadiq

Source: The Guardian

BY JAHABAR SADIQ

The news portal The Malaysian Insider went offline on the first minute of 15 March 2016 – the Ides of March. With that, 59 staffers, including me, lost our jobs. And Malaysia lost another source of independent news.

But it came nearly three weeks after the internet regulator – the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) – issued a block order against us over a report that claimed the local anti-graft agency had sufficient evidence of a criminal charge against the prime minister Najib Razak, although the country’s attorney-general had cleared him of wrongdoing.

The anti-graft investigations began last July after the Wall Street Journal revealed that nearly US$700m had been found in the prime minister’s bank accounts. Read more

399 websites blocked by MCMC this year

Source: FMT News

Government working with Facebook and Google to curb social media abuses.

KUALA LUMPUR: Since Jan 1 this year, 22 netizens were probed and 399 websites were blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), says Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Jailani Johari.

Speaking during the question-and-answer session in the Dewan Rakyat today, Jailani said the government was now working with Facebook and Google to curb social media abuses.

Putrajaya had also formed a commission to focus on misuse of the Internet, chaired by the minister, Salleh Said Keruak.

“This is due to new challenges that have arisen with regards to the different interpretations of national laws and laws of the countries hosting these platform providers,” explained Jailani.

Read more

Malaysian Internet Censorship is Going from Bad to Worse — EFF

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

Following our previous articles about increasing political censorship of the Internet in Malaysia, things have quickly gone from bad to worse. In fact since July 2015, the Malaysian government has blocked at least ten websites, including online news portals and private blogs, for reporting about the scandal surrounding Malaysian Prime Minister Najib tun Razak over his mysterious private dealings with $700 million in funds.

Among the latest developments include the state’s blocking of online news portal, The Malaysian Insider, due to their reporting on the scandal—a blatant act of press censorship which drew official comment from the U.S. Department of State. Local activist Fahmi Reza has also come under investigation for his parody clown images depicting the Prime Minister posted to his Twitter account.

And the Malaysian government still clamors for more censorship authority, adding to its existing broad powers under the Penal Code and the Sedition Act. Currently, the government is planning to table the amendments to both the Official Secret Act (OSA) and the Communication & Multimedia Act (CMA) during its upcoming March or May Parliamentary sessions, to strengthen its control over content providers, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and end users. Read more

Online media repression likely to worsen, says lawyer

Source: The Malaysian Outsider

Lawyer Syahredzan Johan speaks during forum on Media Shackled, Democarcy Dead? at KLSCAH, Kuala Lumpur on March 4, 2016. The Malaysian Insider/Seth Akmal.

Lawyer Syahredzan Johan speaks during forum on Media Shackled, Democarcy Dead? at KLSCAH, Kuala Lumpur on March 4, 2016. The Malaysian Insider/Seth Akmal.

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. Read more