Current Affairs

Dont be “kiasu”, Shabery Cheek

by Yeo Bee Yin

The Barisan Nasional government should not become a copycat or a kiasu government and resort to restricting free flow of information in Malaysia cyberspace.


The Communications and Multimedia Minister Dato Sri Ahmad Shabery Cheek has said that the BN government is now studying the possibility of regulating online news portals following Singapore’s recent move.

He added that since Singapore, which is a country seen as more sophisticated, has come up with the regulation, so the Malaysian government will look into its feasibility.

Before taking Singapore as a ‘role model’, we suggest that the Communications and Multimedia Minister to read the 2013 Reporters Without Borders Report on Press Freedom Index, of which it measures the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information in 179 countries.

Singapore ranks worse than Malaysia in Press Freedom Index 2013 – standing at 149th while Malaysia 145th, even after Malaysia suffered one of the biggest falls in ranking among the countries in the survey (sharp drop of 23). Therefore, it is obvious that emulating Singaporean regulations in Internet monitoring is a clear regressive move in Malaysia freedom of expression.

We would like to remind Dato Ahmad Shabery Cheek that we should never emulate policies of a particular country when the country is ‘seen’ as more sophisticated. Instead we emulate them when the policies can benefit the Rakyat.

Of all the things that we can learn from Singapore, one of the few things that we should not learn is Singaporean approach in media control.

Dont emulate Singapore in terms of media control

If Barisan Nasional is really serious about learning from Singapore, we would like to suggest that we learn from their transparency and accountability policies (Singapore ranks 5th vs Malaysia 54th in Corruption Perception Index 2012 by Transparency International) as well as their competitiveness (Singapore ranks 2nd vs Malaysia 25th in Global Competitiveness Index 2012 by World Economic Forum).

We can emulate Singapore by ensuring that all procurement and privatisation contracts are tender in an open and transparent fashion with full disclosure.

Perhaps Singapore’s move is just an excuse for the BN government to implement their long awaited wish to suppress the Internet freedom? Dato Ahmad Shabery Cheek has confirmed earlier on 31 May that his ministry is studying the approaches to curb the ‘abuse’ of social media that could stir religious and racial strife and threaten ‘national security’.

With Printing and Presses Publication Act, Security Offences Act and Amended Section 114(A) of Evidence Act, Malaysia legal framework is already an environment that allows the Barisan Nasional to abuse the laws to achieve their political goals.

Now, the attempts of regulating online news portals and curbing the ‘abuse’ of social media will further restrict the information flow in the cyberspace, of which Pakatan Rakyat has at least a more level playing field.

Curbing social media proves BN is “kiasu”

The underlying reason why Pakatan Rakyat has been very successful in the urban and semi-urban constituencies in the recently concluded elections is due to the effective use and availability of social media.

Hence the move announced by Dato’ Ahmad Shabery Cheek shows that the BN government is so ‘kiasu’ (afraid of losing) that they want to shut down the social media reach and access for Pakatan Rakyat to retain their chokehold on power in Putrajaya.

We call upon the Barisan Nasional government not to become a copycat or a kiasu government, using draconian approaches to restrict the right of all Malaysians to full access of information on the Internet.

If Barisan Nasional is serious about regulating internet while upholding Internet freedom, I suggest to them to start-off by reading The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Internet Freedom on 5 July 2012 that the people rights to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas, i.e the freedom of expression, must be protected regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice. – The Rocket

Yeo Bee Yin is DAP’s Social Media Strategist and the State Assemblywoman for Damansara Utama

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