The New Wave Is Here to Stay


When former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad established the Multimedia Super Corridor in 1996, he had given the undertaking that the government would not censor the Internet. I am sure that he did not anticipate that his stand would lead to proliferation of news portals such as TMI, FMT, TNG, MT which have been publishing critical stories and commentaries which one seldom see in the MSM. Whereas in the past  Malaysians had to depend on foreign newspapers for more vocal coverage of news, all they need to do now is to log on to homegrown sites.

Such a development has made it difficult for the government to control the volume/type of information available to netizens. Indirectly, with more exposes, public figures and politicians are now under the scrutiny of the public.

According to the International Communication Union,  there are 16,902,600 Internet users in Malaysia as of June, 2009, 64.6% of the population.

“They have lost the monopoly on truth,” said Steven Gan, editor in chief of Malaysiakini told NYT. “For a long time, the government had complete control over the news agenda through the control of the mainstream media. That is gone. They can continue to tell the mainstream media what to report, but that doesn’t stop Malaysians from knowing that there’s another version of the truth out there, and they get it from the Internet.”

NYT reported that during the Bersih rally, Malaysiakini received 5.2 million hits, making the day one of the site’s busiest since it was established in 1999.

On August 15th, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the government would review its current media censorship laws, stressing that it was no longer an “effective” method in the current era. He cited the example of an article by British weekly The Economist on the July 9 Bersih rally, which was censored by his administration but readily available online, and admitted that the act of censorship brought about negative publicity.

Following that disclosure, Jahabar Sadiq, Editor of TMI, said that move was a sign of the PM returning to the centre “to put some space between himself and hardliners in government, especially Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein”.

DPM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin clarified that the government would implement a special system to “monitor” the media, and that this mechanism will eventually replace censorship laws saying that it was becoming increasingly difficult to exercise censorship control in a “world without borders.”

“We will not filter (the media), but a monitoring system will be put in place.

“A person’s individual freedom cannot outweigh the freedom of the general public. As an elected government, we have to be careful about the freedom in cyberspace,” he told reporters on August 16th.

When asked how the government planned to monitor various media in the country, Muhyiddin said that there was “no one answer to it”, but did not elaborate further.

The Home Minister said HERE that the Home Ministry will review the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) but will stand firm on issues involving race and religion.

Pakatan leaders who responded HERE raised the familiar issues of concern shared by many who believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Lestor Kong’s (The Singapore Straits Times) analytical review HERE is worth a read and has been widely carried by other news portals, including The Jakarta Globe.

Extract from that article: