Contradictions of “No censorship”: Episode RPK, Malaysia Today

Posted: July 28, 2007 in Blogging and Democracy, Malaysian Blogosphere, Media and communication

As you all probably know, in the later part of the evening yesterday(5 ish) it was reported that most of us bloggers could not access Malaysia today. Since some of us had experience slow loading the pages of Malaysia Today since UMNO lodged its report we assumed that it was congestion but towards 7 plus we realized that it was in fact yet another ploy by the government to censor the internet.

Looking at the backdrop of Malaysia Media, traditional media in particular it does not take a rocket scientist to understand that it is owned and controlled by the government since its birth as it plays the role of the government mouthpiece. Even the introduction of private radio or television did not prove to change the way the Malaysian traditional media operate the only difference was that private stations revolved around entertaintment and stayed far away from airing any issues that were sensitive or more serious. Despite the increased number of publications nothing much had changed as many argued(Zaharom;1996 Wang Lay Kim:1999) that many of these new publications and tv stations were still mouthpiece of the government and did not provide a good check and balance system let alone a channel for rational critical debate.

So when dear old Internet came along, many people believed that it would open up avenues for freedom of expression and could prove to provide a platform for change, something the mainstream media definitely couldn’t. Then came along a very promising vow by the government, something that the ‘rakyat’ craved for freedom of expression. In a bid to attract investors and the development of multimedia industries, the BILL OF GUARANTEES was conceived under the Multimedia Super Corridor in the late 1990s. One of the most attractive aspect outlined under the BILL OF GUARANTEES is “Ensure NO INTERNET CENSORsHIP”.

The result of this was an outburst on cyberspace with websites and blogs of all sort of natures being created over the span of the last few years. An alternative online media <“Malaysiakini”> was also born during this time that seeked to test the limits of this so call “no censorship” but as expected by many it did not prove so clean cut as the bill guaranteed. Despite this new media and space being of great potential it was very vulnerable STILL to state enormous amount of power. Soon came the expected for those who dared to defy the powers that be by their brave and opposing views of the government.

Despite the great promise of the BILL OF GUARANTEES under the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) clearly the situation of the Internet and the blogosphere is quite contradictory. Laws such as the Communication and Multimedia Act (1998)- allows for one person to prevent freedom of access and freedom to express via the Internet etc.

It no doubt promises of virtual freedom has been clearly stated through this Bill but the blocking of websites (Sang Kancil, Voice of Freedom etc) the use of Malaysian Instituted of Microelectronic System(MIMOS) through JARING an ISP provider,in 1998 to track down those circulating information on pro-democracy gatherings during Anwar saga, the crackdown on Malaysiakini later in 2003 and the list goes on. But after all this incidents, the government still wanted to push further to register cybercafes to control debates/discussion but decided to forgo such plans as pressure was building up from the economical side of things(investors).

Despite all that the government did not let go and continued to pursue their fight against freedom of expression through numerous threats and use of current media laws to suppress their new target Bloggers. Laws such as the Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act, Internal Security Act the Communication and Multimedia Act were among the laws that was threatened to be use by the government to curb those who defy the powers that be. The recent assault of bloggers from 2004 with Jeff Ooi right up till the assault today on RPK, Malaysia Today proves that the virtual freedom is just a bluff, a ploy to seem liberal, to seem developed and open but the situation at hand proves to contradict everything!

Yesterday’s DOS ATTACK on Malaysia Today is yet another great example of the might powers that be and their lies on “not strangling internet freedom”. According to RPK of Malaysia Today;

The 5.00pm incident was not only the site disappearing from my screen. I also could not enter the blog administration section or the control panel. It was as if Malaysia Today had been closed down. After attempting to get in so many times for about an hour, I began to get worried and phoned the data centre to ask what was going on. They checked and called back to inform me that they suspect we have suffered a DOS attack.”

Well, Umno may have succeeded for a couple of hours in their attempts to close down Malaysia Today. After spamming the site with hundreds of spam postings every day which I have to spend hours removing, attacking me on their own sites which not many have heard of, plus after making a police report against me, they have now resorted to sabotaging the site.” For the full story visit;

<“Malaysia Today”>

Despite the great promise of freedom of expression through the Bluff that be- Bill of Guarantees it obviously does not guarantee anything but the allows those in political power and having economic interest to play the role of Boss for all in a continued never ending road of doom. But that despite it all, the ‘rakyat of the blogosphere’ have fought hard to fight for their rights and have bounced back each time since Jeff Ooi first encounter with the powers that be. The sense of solidarity that has erupted as an outcome of the clampdown of bloggers have inclinations of providing a public sphere for people to gather and have rational debate despite the restrictions that continue to stifle the existing freedom. Yesterday’s episode only illustrates what installed for the future of the blogosphere should it be left to the powers that be to decide.

As I mentioned in my earlier blog posting ,Uprising of civil society?there could be a rise of civil society as we speak. I can’t help but be optimist despite the dark clouds that hover our blogosphere. We do not seek for absolute freedom but for space of expression to voice out our concerns, debate on issues that matter most but we do acknowledge that there will be those in the blogosphere that will use it for slander but isn’t such likely to occur even in traditional media? The sooner the government realizes that the ‘rakyat’ will not be silent and will continue to fight for their rights the better.

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Comments
  1. […] Contradictions of “No censorship”: Episode RPK, Malaysia Today As you all probably know, in the later part of the evening yesterday(5 ish) it was reported that most of us bloggers […] […]

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