(Pic by Integricity Visuals)
MALAYSIA, a developed nation: a reality in the making or an elusive dream?
With just 12 years to go before our targeted Vision 2020, we should be straining to gain unstoppable momentum as the finish line draws closer.
But how are we doing, really?
Last week, a hurdle was thrown into our race for progress that forces us to step on the brakes and rethink our strategy. A directive was issued by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to all local internet service providers to block Malaysia-today.net, a very popular and controversial source of news.
It is highly unlikely that the rapidly implemented action of blocking Malaysia Today demonstrates how much our government cares for us Malaysians. In fact, it immediately stirred up a wave of negative reactions from the blogosphere and beyond.
Jeff Ooi, our celebrity-blogger-turned-politician, had strong words to say on his blog: “The MCMC — which was erected to propel Malaysia into the Internet Age — should be hanged for stifling its own baby, the Internet.”
Another avid blogger, Susan Loone, writes:
“To Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi;
Do you think by getting the MCMC to block Raja Petra kamaruddin’s [sic] MALAYSIA TODAY, you can block the blogs and minds of others as well?
You have shown how cowardly you responded to the defeat of UMNO at Pematang Pauh.
We are not blogging for Anwar Ibrahim alone.
One day you might find us useful because if he does wrong, we are going to criticise him in our blogs as well.
So try to appreciate us a little lah.”
Contradicting own policy
What was the real reason behind the ban of Malaysia Today?
It was apparently due to the 172 reader comments generated by an article published on 16 Jan 2008. The article, titled Malays, the Enemy of Islam, spoke of a woman who was suing perverse members of the Malaysian government for outraging her modesty and forcing her to perform sexual favours.
As expected, many comments from readers were harsh and did little to paint government officers in good light.
How does this move to block access to Malaysia Today reconcile with the efforts of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Malaysia to raise the level of technology adoption in our country?
In actuality, both these agencies seemingly support the same cause. The MCMC website proudly declares in its manifesto that the commission’s mission is to “[promote] access to communications and multimedia services”.
As for companies that have been awarded the prestigious MSC status, they are bound by the MSC Malaysia Bill of Guarantees. Point number seven specifically says that the government will “ensure no Internet censorship”.
In policy and mission statement, both bodies seem to endorse and promote freedom of the Internet. However, the MCMC’s action seems to indicate otherwise.
Could I politely propose, for accuracy’s sake, that the manifesto and Bill of Guarantees be reworded to the following: “promoting access to selected communications and multimedia services” and “ensure no Internet censorship (unless required).”
Responding positively to criticisms
Remember the article by Michael Backman in Australian daily The Age, titled While Malaysia fiddles, its opportunities are running dry? Should we also block that article on the internet, so that Malaysians are not exposed to Backman’s harsh assessment of our country?
We should not be afraid that the rakyat will wake up and realise, “Crikey, this country is horrible!” Why shouldn’t we be able to address the issues at hand, admit to our shortcomings, rise to the challenge, and send someone like Backman an e-mail saying, “Thank you for your most interesting article. Here are our 10 steps for improvement that we have tabled”, then actually act on them?
What does the future hold for our country? Will efforts to reduce the brain drain, and promote Malaysia: My Second Home look more favourable in light of the controls on the internet?
Truth is, actions such as that by the MCMC may eventually drive foreign businesses away from our country to our fast-rising neighbours that adopt and practise more liberal internet access policies.
Real work needs to be done
Within hours of the Malaysia Today ban, alternative domains were set up to continue providing content from the site. Once again, the public managed to skirt around the enforcers, and quite easily, too. Even The Star published the alternative domains, which helped restore access to loyal fans.
In its shortsightedness, I believe the MCMC executed a fabulous campaign to market Raja Petra Kamaruddin’s blog — kudos, MCMC! Even those who weren’t readers now know about the site. Forbid a child to touch a kettle, and you know the consequences.
Instead of wasting time trying to ban websites, I wish the MCMC would get off its laurels and go to work, and I mean real work. Among things that need to be done is to bring the internet to rural areas, help our country obtain better internet access speeds, and promote the use of e-commerce so that businesses can easily accept credit cards online and transact internationally. As you can see, there is a lot of real work to be done.
If the MCMC continues in its foolhardy ways, where does that leave us Malaysians? Will my kids have access to anything more than government-run websites? What about access to the truth on anything?
As it is, even former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad thinks that government propaganda controls the printing presses and the airwaves. He speaks of the post-Permatang Pauh by-election hype: “Press conferences are useless as the media are not allowed to report on my statements unless they can be spun to look as if I support Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his government.”
If this sentiment is accurate, as the MCMC’s action further demonstrates, how will we ever progress? How will we be able to stand tall among the nations? How will we have freedom, true freedom?
(© Phil Date / Dreamstime.com)
Alex Lam hails from the pre-Windows 95 era and vaguely remembers installing it from 30 floppy disks. He currently runs a video blog on technology called The Backpackr, and, when absolutely necessary, heads an interactive agency called Integricity.