Friday, August 29, 2008

Apparently, this post is a threat to national security

In a rare move, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has ordered all internet service providers (ISPs) to block controversial online portal Malaysia Today [Malaysiakini, 27/8/08]

The government is finally taking on the internet community and bloggers of the country with the latest lock down on Raja Petra Kamarudin's site, Malaysia Today. The independent news site was deemed "a threat to national security" because it contained "seditious" and "defamatory" elements in its posts. Raja Petra became the enemy of the state when he adamantly accused the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor of being involved in the murder of a Mongolian woman. The news came in on August 27 when all 21 ISPs (Internet Service Provider) of the nation blocked Malaysia Today.

The Star, a national daily reported that the ISPs were acting under the orders of the MCMC based on Section 263 of the Communications and Multimedia Act. Action may also be taken against such web sites for the offences under the Sedition Act and on the grounds of defamation.

The government's decision to put a stop to all "seditious" blogging came during a high-level meeting between top government officials and civil servants as reported by The Malaysian Insider on August 28. An understanding was reached that if nothing was done now to censor the internet, the ruling government will imminently face defeat in the next general election, presumably on 2013. Their argument was that there will be 2 million new voters who would all be in their 20's by then and their primary source of information would be the internet, not the mainstream media which the government has control on.

So, is the censorship of the internet legal under the law? Here is an excerpt of the Communications and Multimedia Act:

"Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting the censorship of the Internet." [Section 3(3)]

The same is repeated in No. 7 of the MSC Malaysia Bill of Guarantees which states that the Malaysian Government promises to ensure the internet is free from censorship.

Supporters of the government said that it was done according to the provisions in the Sedition Act. However, their shortsightedness was highlighted by their ignorance of Section 271 of the
Communications and Multimedia Act which states that:

"If there is any inconsistency or conflict between this Act and any other relevant written law, the provisions of this Act shall prevail to the extent of the inconsistency or conflict."

If this is so, shouldn't the Communications and Multimedia Act overrule the Sedition Act when websites are involved?

According to the Sedition Act, "sedition" is defined as:

" bring hatred and or contempt or to excite disaffection against and Ruler (Head of States) or against any Government." [Section 3 (1a)]

" raise discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or of the Ruler of any State or amongst the inhabitants or Malaysia or of any State." [Section 3 (1d)]


" promote feelings of ill will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia." [Section 3 (1e)]

Yet, it was clear that the government and its ardent supporters were practising "selective reading" of this Act and had overlooked this portion of the very same law that they are manipulating:

" act, speech, words, publication or other thing shall not be deemed to be seditious by reason only that it has a tendency to point out errors or defects in any Government or constitution as by law established (except in respect of any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignity or prerogative referred to in paragraph (1)(f) otherwise than in relation to the implementation of any provision relating thereto) or in legislation or in the administration of justice with a view to the remedying of the errors or defects." [Section 2 (b)]

In other words, one cannot be charged under the Sedition Act if he/she points out any errors and defects within any governmental institution or law. Even if the closure of Malaysia Today was based on the argument of "defamation", why was Raja Petra the only target when clearly there are thousands of sites out there defaming almost everything under the sun - from hawker stalls to President Bush. Therefore, the ban on Malaysia Today is not only unlawful but it is also double speak.

With this sudden active enforcement of the law, why not also charge certain individuals and MPs under the Sedition Act or
Communications and Multimedia Act for making racist statements and false accusations? Here's a few:

  1. Former MP of Jerai, Badruddin bin Amiruldin strongly argued that Malaysia is an Islamic state since its formation and for those who did not like that idea, can leave the country ( He was referring to the non-Muslims who are non-Malays by majority). Opposition MPs called this statement racist and unconstitutional as Malaysia is in fact a secular state. You may watch the video here.
  2. During the recent Bar Council forum on the matters of religious conversion, a group of 300 hurled derogatory chants like "Babi Balik China! (Pigs, go back to China!)" and "Babi! (Pigs!)." [Malaysiakini, 9/8/08]
  3. Rembau MP, Khairy Jamaluddin made accusations in his blog post that Anwar Ibrahim had solicited funds from the United States to finance his campaign in Permatang Pauh. Apparently, Anwar is going to return the favour by signing a Free Trade Agreement with the US if he succeeds in becoming the Prime Minister. He also claimed that Anwar will allow the construction of a US Navy Base in Sabah. However, Khairy did not provide any pinch of evidence to support his allegations and he came to such conclusions simply by "observation".
If "sedition" is to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or of the Ruler of any State or amongst the inhabitants or Malaysia or of any State [Section 3 (1d)], then the government need to explain why no charges were brought against these men.
  • Are not non-Muslims subjects of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong also? (in reference to Badruddin's statements)
  • Did the racists chants made by those men not promote the feelings of ill will among the Chinese community in this country?
  • How are Opposition supporters different to BN Supporters in terms of citizenship? Baseless accusations against Anwar have the same "tendency" to raise discontentment among his supporters who are also subjects of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Both sides of the Dewan Rakyat can argue endlessly over the closure of Malaysia Today and future censorship of the internet. But before Malaysians decide on whose side they want to be on, consider the following:

"...every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression." [Article 10 (1a) of the Federal Constitution]

Every Malaysian must be reminded that the Federal Constitution is and will always be the highest authority of the land.

Though the government reserves the right to suppress the freedom of speech on the grounds of national security as provisioned in Article 10(2) of the Constitution, only time will tell how far will the government go in order to maintain their fragile interpretation of "national security".

For further reading:
  1. Federal Constitution of Malaysia
  2. Act 15: Sedition Act 1948
  3. Act 588: Communications and Multimedia Act 1998
  4. Cyberspace crackdown begins - The Malaysian Insider

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  1. Anonymous said...

    "The internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it."

    Have the government learned nothing from China? Their firewall is porous too, under the right circumstances...

    This comment has been posted via The Onion Router.

    Next question, how long till proxies are illegal.