Friday February 26, 2016
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Screenshot shows the MCMC notice being displayed when attempting to access news portal The Malaysian using Celcom network. Screenshot shows the MCMC notice being displayed when attempting to access news portal The Malaysian using Celcom network. KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 ― Putrajaya has no reason to block The Malaysian Insider (TMI) unless the news portal contained content that was seditious or pornographic, or calls to topple the government through violence, a good governance group said today.

The Centre for A Better Tomorrow (CENBET) urged the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to explain how exactly TMI had breached Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, which prohibits one from using network facilities or services to create content that is “obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person”.

“In the interests of transparency and good governance which CENBET promotes, the least MCMC could have done is to specify the article in contention, who the aggrieved party is, and why this warranted the drastic and rare move to restrict access to the site,” CENBET said in a statement.

“Unless articles in The Malaysian Insider, or any other websites, contain seditious content, calls to topple the government by way of violence, pornography or any other elements deemed genuinely detrimental to national security, there should be no reason to block online content.

“In a healthy democracy, a free press acts as a check-and-balance on the government and is a platform for ideas to flourish. Those aggrieved by media reports are given the right of reply and have the option to take media to court,” the group added.

After MCMC blocked TMI on certain networks yesterday, the police said this morning that the TMI chief editor would be called in for questioning over a news report on a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) panel, but did not specify which one.

Tan Sri Hamid Bugo, former chairman of the MACC Operations Review Panel, and another ex-member issued a statement yesterday rejecting a TMI report that cited an anonymous source, who claimed the panel said there was enough evidence to prosecute the prime minister. The current term of the panel expired Wednesday.

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) also expressed concern about the restriction of access to TMI, the latest website to be blocked after regional news site Asia Sentinel, blog hosting site Medium, whistleblower site Sarawak Report, as well as several socio-political blogs.

“It is akin to blocking the whole of YouTube because of one video that offends the government, or all of Facebook because of a single post the government deems ‘problematic’.

“Such desperate and over-reaching measures have only been taken by a handful of governments, including Pakistan, Russia and China,” the non-profit group said in a statement yesterday.

CIJ urged the government to address the issues raised in such websites, instead of engaging in censorship.

“The internet is central to Malaysia’s democracy and should be used to promote transparency and accountability, including by the government,” it said.

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