Malaysia tightens grip on online freedom with proposed amendments

Reposted from IFJ 

26 May 2016

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists, Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM) in strongly criticizing the proposed amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 put forward by the Malaysian Government. The IFJ and NUJM called on the government to review the amendments that would further obstruct freedom of expression and information online.

On May 16, at the start of the current sitting of the Malaysian Parliament, amendments to the CMA Act were presented. The amendments have been deemed an attack on freedom of expression online by NUJM and could lead to severe online restrictions. According to NUJM the proposed amendments will include:

  • The registration of political blogs and websites;
  • An increase in penalties for offences related to undesirable content; and
  • Broader powers for the internet regulatory body – the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) – to take down content without proper oversight.

According to the Government, the proposed amendments have been developed through proper consultation with relevant stakeholders. However, NUJM said that the proposed amendments have not been publically shared with Malaysian civil society groups, such as human rights and journalistic organisations, and, in particular, the Malaysian Bar Human Rights Committee.

In January 2016, Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Salled Said Keruak, said of the proposed amendments, “Blocking websites and blogs that spread slanderous statements on the government alone is not enough. We also want the person behind it to receive appropriate punishment.”

The IFJ said: “The proposed amendments to the CMA Act are part of the increasing control that the Malaysian government has over freedom of expression. Changes to the CMA Act are illustrative of the government’s tendency in recent years to amend laws to curtail freedom of expression and press freedom. The proposed amendments will heavily impact on press freedom in Malaysia.”

The IFJ has joined several international press freedom and freedom of expression organisations to voice concerns over the proposed amendments. Read the letter here. 

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

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