Malaysia has dropped one point in a global survey on the freedom of the Internet compared with last year, and remains classified as "partly free" in the study carried out by the Washington-based Freedom House.

The country scored 44 out of 100 in Internet freedom. A reading of close to 0 is described as most free while 100 is least free. Last year Malaysia won 43 points.

NONEOf all the countries in Asia, only Japan and Philippines are listed as free.

The study says Malaysia has controls over political, social and religious content.
It also finds the manipulation of online discussions by pro-government commentators to be one of the causes for curbs on Internet freedom.

Other reasons for Malaysia's poor showing on Internet freedom include the arrests of "offending" bloggers and technical attacks against government critics.

While Internet penetration is listed at 66 percent of the 29 million population, the study also found Malaysia's press freedom as not free.

The Freedom House study covered 60 countries around the world.
The study noted that in the run-up to the general election, several news outlets covering the opposition faced disruption of their servers, and an amendment passed to the Evidence Act holding website owners liable for seditious comments from anonymous postings are key development findings which weigh down on Malaysia’s ranking.

Other areas included police charging a blogger with criticising the Johor sultan, and a discovery by a Canadian-based university of finding spyware software, which may allow the authorities to spy on its citizens.

Legal harassment to intimidate

Freedom House noted that legal harassment wass the main way for the authorities to intimidate critical bloggers in 2012 and April 2013, that includes the charge on the blogger criticising the Johor sultan and another blogger being subjected to contempt proceeding and facing a jail sentence.

NONEIt noted that while the High Court has allowed Malaysiakinito expand to print format, another decision where the arrest and detention of blogger and cartoonist Zunar (right in photo) wasdeemed lawfulseems to backpedal such rights.

The study noted that Malaysiakini, a news portal which had been critical of the government, had suffered 35 DDOS attacks in the past.

The Washington-based group also noted that the Penal Code amendment makes it an offence to deliver a political speech “in an activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy”, which is seen as curbing fundamental rights.

“Police charged at least eight Internet users with criticism of the monarchy in 2009 and questioned many others. Many prosecutions were dropped, but at least one paid a RM10,000 fine rather than face trial,” the study noted.

Spyware found in Malaysia

The study found that privacy protection was generally poor in Malaysia, where in 2008 the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commssion formed a panel comprising representatives from the police, the Attorney-General's Office and the Home Ministry to monitor websites and blogs.

The group said the new Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, that replaces the Internal Security Act, allows the interception of communications without court order.

On the spyware, Freedom House reported that in March 2013, University of Toronto-based research group Citizen Lab had detected a software known as FinFisher on 36 servers worldwide, including one in Malaysia.

The software, according to Citizen Lab, allows the server to steal passwords, tap Skype calls or record audio or video without permission from other computer companies.

The presence of such a server, the University of Toronto group noted, did not, however, prove who was running it.

~ Malaysiakini