Sunday, January 19, 2014

Is Putrajaya Trying to Cover up the Blocking of BBC's "Kangkung" Site

Media Statement by Yeo Bee Yin, DAP Social Media Strategist and State Assemblywoman for Damansara Utama on Friday, 17 Jan 2014 in Petaling Jaya.
The incident of BBC’s “kangkung” article being inaccessible raised red flag on Putrajaya’s commitment to Internet and social media freedom, which is crucial for Pakatan Rakyat victory in the next General Election.

We were appalled at the news that an article on BBC’s website entitled “#BBCtrending: Be careful what you say about spinach” has been inaccessible temporarily by some of the Telekom Malaysia (TM) users and appeared to be restored only after a public outcry on social media.
Despite Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) earlier denial, the fact that TM did not deny blocking the article and in its statement said “TM wishes to reiterate that issues of national content blocking should be directed MCMC” indicated that there was indeed instruction from “above”.  
Is MCMC trying to cover up? Instead of attempting to sweep the matter under the carpet, we urge MCMC to come out clean and explain the incident in an honest manner. The Minister of Communication and Multimedia Dato Sri’ Ahmad Shabery Cheek should step-in to investigate the matter, find those who are guilty of it and make them responsible.
Such incident of selective blocking of sites for political reasons is unacceptable and should not be repeated. It sends an urgent signal to Pakatan Rakyat on Putrajaya’s sincerity in honoring its commitment to no censorship under the Multimedia Super Corridor’s Bill of Guarantees, especially in the face of even stiffer competition in GE14.
With the mainstream media being tightly controlled by the Barisan Nasional government under Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984 as shown clearly by the suspension of The Heat, the Internet will be the main campaigning channel for Pakatan Rakyat in GE14.
Good news for us is that according to Finance Ministry Economic Report 2013/2014, the number of Internet users Malaysia is expected to grow to 25 million in 2015, which is more than 85% of the total population of Malaysia. As of now, one out every three minutes spent online is on social networking in Malaysia.
Beside that, it is expected that we’ll see an even younger demographic of registered voters in GE14 than GE13. (According to the Population and Housing Census of Malaysia 2010, the size of population at the age of 15-19 is 2.8 million. Beside that, there are about 3 million unregistered voters under the age of 35. This makes up a total of 5.8 million of eligible young voters who can register to vote in GE14).
If everything else stays constant, with higher Internet penetration rate, Pakatan Rakyat’s upper hand in social media campaigning and a younger demographic of voters, we will see a more level playing field in GE14 in terms of media and information dissemination.
Nevertheless, Internet and social media access is hold to ransom by the Multimedia Super Corridor’s Bill of Guarantees. If even a report on the Prime Minister “kangkung” remarks is intolerable and has been blocked, we are extremely concerned that Barisan Nasional will resort to foul play on the internet in the face of stiffer fight in GE14.

With that, we urge the government not to cover up the BBC’s “kangkung” site blocking and find out the culprits who initiated such block. And to prove its sincerity for internet freedom, the government should also reassure private Internet Service Providers in black-and-white that, they should in no circumstances be obliged to self-filter political contents, with or without instructions from “above”. 

Yeo Bee Yin