KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — Malaysia appears to be trying to emulate Singapore in controlling the Internet and freedom of speech by reportedly proposing the registration of blogs and news portals, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.
HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson alleged that the proposed amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) were looking to restrict free speech on the Internet, like in Singapore.
“They are trying to put the Internet genie back into the bottle. The proposed changes to the CMA is very worrisome. It already is very vague.
“They will be looking into forcing websites and political blogs to register under the government. Malaysia wants to try emulate Singapore in the way that they want to crack down on freedom of speech,” he said during a press conference today.
The global human rights group today lodged their annual report, where they claimed that Putrajaya’s crackdown on dissent and freedom of expression has worsened over the past year.
Robertson also warned Malaysia that if the government goes ahead with amending the CMA following Singapore’s model, it would cause friction between the authorities and the people.
“Malaysia should seriously consider abandoning this approach to emulate Singapore’s model and be at loggerheads with the people,” he stressed.
“If you look at Singapore, they have used a regulatory model to really restrict what goes up there. Aggressive use of those laws in Malaysia will significantly impact online portals.
“The government is not even-handed in dealing with news media and the Internet for to insert more control would be problematic,” Robertson explained further.
If Putrajaya does go ahead with its amendments to the CMA, Robertson suggested that Internet giants like Google and Facebook intervene, as it would be affecting them as well.
“This is a major challenge for Internet freedom for Malaysia. Not just incumbent about Malaysians but also companies who claim [they’re] paragon(s) for international freedom.
“People like Google, Facebook and Yahoo! Time for them to step in and speak to the Malaysian government. It is not just a problem for us here, but for you as well,” he said.
It was reported last year that the government was looking to amend the CMA. Among the suggestions include registering online news portals and blogs.
There have been also rumours that the new amendments will follow closely to what is done in Singapore where licences are given to websites and a review is made every two years.