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Govt lifts block on websites, blogs

PUTRAJAYA, 11 Sept 2008: The government is no longer blocking the access to any websites or blogs in the country, says Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor.

Speaking to reporters at his office here, he said the move was decided by the cabinet at its weekly meeting yesterday and aimed at encouraging the people to continue using the internet and websites as a means to disseminate information.

According to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), there were 126 websites of which access were blocked from January until so far this year due to infringements of its regulation, including insulting religion and cheating consumers.

Shaziman said that a committee comprising representatives of the MCMC, police, Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Home Ministry would be set up to monitor websites, especially those with excessive, seditious and racially sensitive content.

He said the government felt that the existing laws and regulations were sufficient and could be used against websites operators who undermine the country’s peace and harmony.

Shaziman said that following the decision, the order to restrict access to websites or blogs, including the Malaysia Today news portal, has been withdrawn, effective immediately.

Malaysia Today was blocked by order from Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to all internet service providers (ISPs) on 27 Aug 2008. MCMC chief operating officer Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi said it was blocked due to some comments posted on the websites, which he termed as insensitive and bordering on incitement.

"The cabinet had also asked the Attorney-General’s Chambers to speed up the prosecution of operators of websites which are seditious, inciting racial hatred or insulting any religion, if there are sufficient evidence to do so," Shaziman said.

Shaziman said the government was aware that existing law such as the Sedition Act could be used against those who raise sensitive issues on the internet.

However, the action taken against them previously was a bit slow, he said.

"Things like this need a thorough investigation. In the United States, if a website publishes actionable content, within minutes the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) would come in and seize all equipment to secure evidence.

"Maybe we can move towards that direction," he said.– Bernama

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