Thursday, August 28, 2008

Malaysian goverment backtracks on promises not to censor net

Well, it's finally happened, as I long suspected it would. Despite solemn promises to never censor the Internet, the Muslim-controlled government of Malaysia earlier this week gave orders for all ISPs in the country to block Malaysia Today (, one of Malaysia's premier portals on the country's news, information, and politics.

The excuse for this inexcusable act is as follows:

"It is being blocked because we found that some of the comments on the website were insensitive, bordering on incitement," (said) Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) chief operating officer Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi

Yup, it's always someone named Mohammed, isn't it?

This looks to be an opening move in a Malaysian crackdown on bloggers and the Internet in general. Any sites with information that the ruling party doesn't like could also be blocked, with the owners & contributors to those sites facing official harassment, arrest and/or persecution prosecution. Malaysia Today's owner Raja Petra (RPK) already faces a trial for sedition for a column he wrote for his blog, and similar treatment could very well be in store for other Malaysian bloggers. Additionally, the Malaysian Internal Security Act allows the government to indefintely detain anyone deemed 'a national security threat' (i.e. anyone) without charge or trial.

As Freedom House statistics consistently show, it's almost impossible for a majority Muslim or Muslim-ruled state to be rated 'Free'. Malaysia has been consistently rated as a 'Partly Free' nation, and with this week's developments, that's going to veer much closer to Chinese, Saudi and Iranian-style tyranny; i.e. 'Not Free'.

I think Harry S. Truman said it best when he wrote these words in 1950:

"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."

Note: Malaysia Today has a new URL at