Reports that an Umno politician may be taking over the post of Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) CEO may spell the end of the final bastion of Internet freedom, said PKR.
PKR’s Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tsin said news that Umno politician Mazlan Ismail, who contested as Umno Permatang Pauh candidate against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in the last general election, may be helming the commission is “alarming”.
“PKR views this as politicisation of Internet regulatory body and strengthening Umno’s control over the Internet.
“This could lead to eventual crackdown on dissenting voices on Internet, such as independent online news websites, social media and independent blog sites.
“With these latest developments, PKR is worried that the last firewall that safeguard Internet freedom will soon be breached and conquered,” said Sim (right) in a statement today.
His concerns follow a commentary in Umno-owned Malay dailyUtusan Malaysia that MCMC’s CEO Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi’scontract was not renewed this year because under his watch, MCMC has given free reign to those he claimed had allegedly incited racial hatred and the commission had failed in its role as regulator.
Digital News Asia also reported speculation that the government intends to put an Umno member on the job, naming former Telekom Malaysia Bhd vice-president Mazlan as the likely candidate.
Sim said Sharil had once extolled the need to keep the internet free from censorship as “one of the bedrock principles on which Malaysia is building its digital economy”.
As such, he demanded the government explain why the former CEO’s contract has not been renewed.
“Why was he terminated? Was it because of the pressure to censor internet? More importantly the government must explain whether it will continue to safeguard online freedom.
“His abrupt termination has shattered the confidence of online community whether the government will start to crackdown on internet and social media,” asked Sim.
If that were true, he said, confidence of investors at home and abroad that have invested billions into digital economy and online websites would be adversely affected.
Internet crackdown in making
The Bayan Baru MP said however the signs were there that a crackdown is imminent, from the liberal use of the archaic and draconian Sedition Act 1948 on internet users and frequent calls from Umno members and their pressure groups to silence dissent in cyberspace.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has succumbed to Umno and right wing NGOs and announced a U-turn to maintain current Sedition Act.
“In recent Parliament sittings, we observed more and more Umno leaders have called upon the government to censure internet and social media freedom.
“In fact, the communication and multimedia minister once said the government would study the necessity of shutting down Facebook. That statement caused huge controversy,” notes Sim.
He said PKR will resist efforts to stifle the Internet.
“PKR will start cyber campaign against the attempt to emasculate internet by appointing an UMNO man.
“We believe that regulatory body must remain neutral, professional and independent from political influence,” he said, urging that the Communication and Multimedia Ministry submit the proposal for Sharil’s replacement to Parliament for “vetting and scrutiny”.
Perhaps the most remarkable case of the said internet crackdown is the persecution of infamous blogger Alvin Tan, who was hauled to court over a blog posting inviting readers to enjoy the Chinese dish bak kut teh, a popular pork dish, during the Muslim holy fasting month.