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M'sian Tech Firm Fear Censorship ...
By Chris Prystay
19/5/2001 4:29 am Sat
[Ura-ura kerajaan untuk mengawal maklumat yang bersimpang-siur di
internet menyebabkan beberapa usahawan merasa sedikit bimbang mereka akan
kehilangan daya tarikan pengguna dan pelabur antarabangsa. Ini juga
bermakna mereka perlu menambah kakitangan atau bekerja lebih masa
memantau maklumat yang terpapar agar tidak tertampar muka pihak kerajaan
di mana-mana. Kekurangan maklumat tersebut akan menyebabkan pengguna lari
dan mencari laman lain yang lebih luas isi dan kandungannya. Ini akan
mencederakan industri IT negara yang masih baru hendak bernyawa.
Malaysian Tech Firms Fear Censorship
Under Proposed New Federal Net Laws
By CHEN MAY YEE and CRIS PRYSTAY
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
A Malaysian government statement suggesting that it might renege on a
promise not to police the Internet is sowing confusion among
Internet-based businesses and prompting concern that such a move could
impede investment in the country's Multimedia Super Corridor project.
"Right now, we have no idea exactly who they are going after," said
Steven Gan, editor of popular online newspaper Malaysiakini.com.
Unlike Malaysia's tightly controlled mainstream media, online
publishers such as Malaysiakini don't need a government-granted
license to operate. "If they're going to bring in a licensing system
for Malaysiakini and other news providers, there's definitely going to
be a massive protest from us," Mr. Gan said. "We'll be screaming
The threat of censorship arose last week when Rais Yatim, a minister
in the prime minister's department in charge of legal issues, said the
government was mulling new laws for the Internet. "It is an imperfect
situation when only the print media is governed by laws while those
who indulge in sedition, the misuse of religion or other criminal
offenses through cyberspace go scot free," Datuk Rais said.
The minister suggested that the government might look at extending the
Printing Presses and Publications Act (1984) to include Internet
content. Among other things, the act requires that publishing permits
be renewed annually; this helps to keep Malaysia's generally docile
mainstream media toeing the government line.
Clients May Go Elsewhere
Critics worry that the unexpected move to license Internet-information
providers would introduce an element of unpredictability in Malaysian
government policy and might jeopardize efforts to attract foreign
information-technology companies. "This will definitely affect IT
companies and they will feel very uncomfortable," said Lim Kit Siang,
chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party. "There are other
places they can go."
Some Internet companies say they aren't sure how they might be
affected. "For us, it's a wait and see on what they actually do," said
Ralph Lim, country director of Lycos Asia (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd., part
of a joint venture between Internet portal Terra Lycos SA and
Singapore Telecommunications Ltd.
Roland Takeshi, founder of C3 Network Sdn. Bhd., an audio streaming
company, was more vocal. His one-year-old company hopes to team up
with regional news organizations to offer audio versions of print
articles on their Web sites. Mr. Takeshi worries that clients might
not want to work with his company if they have to constantly think
about whether the Malaysian government finds their content
objectionable. If new legislation is passed, he said, the government
would "really be shooting itself in the foot."
Plans for Asian Silicon Valley
That could have a negative impact on Malaysia's bid to build a
technology-driven "knowledge" economy, a concern even for
noncontent-oriented multinationals operating in the country. "For
Lucent, really, it [Internet laws] would have very little impact,"
said Zam Isa, chief executive of Lucent Technologies Inc.'s Malaysia
unit, which operates a regional technical center and a research
laboratory. But he added, "We would be concerned if censorship caused
restrictions in moving toward globalization."
Unlike China and Singapore, Malaysia has long maintained it will not
try to control the dissemination of information on the Internet, a
pledge intended to help woo investors to the Multimedia Super
Corridor, a multibillion-dollar plan to build an Asian Silicon Valley
near Kuala Lumpur. In recent years, however, political opposition
groups who get little coverage in Malaysia's mainstream media have
been using the Internet to mobilize and disseminate information,
including harsh attacks on Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's
The Multimedia Development Corp., the government agency overseeing the
super corridor, maintained that Datuk Rais's statement doesn't
contradict its so-called Bill of Guarantees to investors. "The
Malaysian government guarantees that it will not block or deny access
to sites or censor material at source," said executive chairman Othman
Yeop Abdullah. "It does not mean that persons who put defamatory
material or conduct any other criminal activities on the Net are
immune from the reach of the law."
Datuk Rais didn't say exactly who the government was targeting with
Internet legislation or when such laws might be formally proposed. But
a spokesman for the minister suggested the measures would be aimed at
"a few Web sites, especially those run by the reformasi movement."
That is a grouping of opposition parties and nongovernmental groups
who have coalesced around jailed former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar
Ibrahim, a former protege of Dr. Mahathir whom the prime minister
sacked in September 1998.