Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Media Statement: Singapore no role model for online media controls

Communications and Multimedia Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek has said that the federal government is studying the possibility of regulating online news portals, imitating Singapore’s move to do so.

Since Singapore - seen as being more sophisticated - has come up with the regulation, the Malaysian government will look into its feasibility, he said.

Before taking Singapore as a ‘role model’, we suggest that the minister looks at the 2013 Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters without Borders to measures the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information in 179 countries.

Singapore ranks worse than Malaysia, standing at 149th while Malaysia is at 145th. This is even after Malaysia suffered one of the biggest falls in ranking - a sharp drop of 23 places - among the countries surveyed.

Therefore, it is obvious that emulating Singapore’s regulations on Internet monitoring would be a clearly regressive move for Malaysia.

We would like to remind Shabery Cheek that we should never emulate policies of a particular country when it is ‘seen’ as more sophisticated. Instead we should emulate them when the policies can benefit the rakyat. One of the few things that we should not learn is Singapore’s approach to media control.

If the BN is really serious about learning from Singapore, we suggest learning from their transparency and accountability policies.

Singapore ranks 5th vs Malaysia at 54th in the Corruption Perception Index 2012 of Transparency International. In competitiveness, Singapore ranks 2nd vs Malaysia at 25th in the Global Competitiveness Index 2012 of the World Economic Forum.

We can emulate Singapore by ensuring that all government procurement and privatisation contracts are sought and awarded in an open and transparent fashion, with full disclosure.

Long-awaited wish?

Perhaps Singapore’s move is just an excuse for the BN government to implement its long- awaited wish to suppress the Internet freedom.

Shabery Cheek had confirmed on May 31 that his ministry is studying the approach to curb ‘abuse’ of social media that could stir religious and racial strife and threaten ‘national security’.

With the Printing Presses and Publications Act, Security Offences Act and amended Section 114(A) of the Evidence Act, Malaysia’s legal framework is already an environment that allows the BN to abuse the laws to achieve political goals.

Regulating online news portals and curbing the ‘abuse’ of social media will further restrict information flow in cyberspace, where Pakatan Rakyat has at least a more level playing field.

The underlying reason why Pakatan was very successful in urban and semi-urban constituencies in the 13th general election was because of its effective use and availability of social media.

Hence, Shabery Cheek’s announcement only shows that the BN government is so kiasu (afraid of losing) that it wants to shut down Pakatan’s reach and access to social media.

This is intended to retain BN’s chokehold on power in Putrajaya.

We call upon the BN government not to become a copycat or a kiasu government that uses draconian approaches to restrict the right of Malaysians to fully access information on the Internet.

If the BN is serious about regulating the Internet while upholding cyber-freedom, I suggest it starts by reading the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on July 5, 2012.

This states that the people have a right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas - i.e freedom of expression - and that it must be protected regardless of frontiers and the media of one’s choice.

Malaysiakini link:http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/231969