Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Malaysian news blogs are Warned

Malaysia warns of crackdown on news blogs; watchdog says move aims to stifle dissent - Asia - Pacific - International Herald Tribune: "Malaysian officials have threatened a crackdown on divisive postings on news blogs, in what an international media watchdog calls a move to expand controls on the traditional media to the Internet.

All Malaysian news blogs may have to be registered with the Ministry of Information, local media reported earlier in the week, citing Deputy Science and Technology Minister Kong Cho Ha as saying the laws were necessary to dissuade bloggers from promoting disorder in Malaysia's multiethnic society.

But an international media watchdog warns that any crackdown on news blogs — online journals that can be written by anyone with access to the Internet — would stifle criticism of the government.

Regulating the Internet could "push Malaysian bloggers daring to criticize the government to stop publishing or self-censor" to avoid possible legal action, the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said in a statement late Monday.

Local news media outlets are strictly controlled by the government, and criticism of government policies are rare. A number of mainstream media organizations are owned by parties within the ruling National Front coalition, or via their proxies.

"Malaysian bloggers currently enjoy an outspokenness denied to journalists in the traditional media," the Reporters Without Borders statement said. "It is vital for the country's democratic life that the Internet is not pushed into self-censorship."

Following Kong's call for news blog regulations, Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin said some online news postings were not ethical because they spread malicious rumors about the government.

Both top officials' comments were carried widely on some of Malaysia's more popular news blogs.

Bloggers are sometimes critical of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's handling of the economy, and other policies which are rarely questioned in the mainstream media."

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