Stop the anti-internet mob

by Ralvin Manikam

It is almost a perfect sight to see, when the rakyat and ministers exercise their freedom of speech and question issues, values and even freedom itself. Some ministers and ex-ministers in the past weeks have questioned whether the internet is too free.

The reason given for such a suggestion is to limit and censor rumors of the kind that would induce panic, rage, unrest and fabrication of facts. While the influx of speculations in relation to the MH370 investigations may have “inspired” this reaction from some ministers and some of the beloved rakyat, one can’t help but think that this is an attempt to burn the online pages of criticism against the Malaysian Government’s handling of the missing plane.

Even if the government somehow feels a sense of responsibility in making sure that the rakyat is only fed with factual and accurate news online, shouldn’t the domain of the internet be a free-to-roam-zone where the rakyat is allowed to discern between right and wrong, news and propaganda, alternative media or Utusan Malaysia?

The only way of brushing away rumours or negative news, is to come up with credible and believable information. If speculations get out of hand, find a way to show why the “facts” that you suggest make more sense. And that has been the way intelligent internet users decide on what to believe. Education on the discourse of impartial and free ideas is of paramount importance, once that is understood, news providers will be challenged to write responsibly.

Irresponsible writing is and should always be punished by ridicule and insult, which have always been essential for a civilized democratic secular discourse. No thought or idea is immune to condemnation; an unfounded idea would crumble while facts would stand despite the bombarding of chastisements.

What would it mean to censor the internet? The internet is the last free space of interaction with no boundaries, its reach spanning across plains, rivers, mountains, and seas with no higher command stopping us from journeying across the fabric of information laid out before us.

We built this world.

From the time of its invention, cyberspace has grown only with the blood, sweat and tears of women and men who have shared their conceptualizations and persuasions. Persuasions that suggest and yet do not impose on us any set of beliefs. We are the ones who ultimately decide on how to come to terms with the information provided. And no one has a right to stop us.

When enjoying John Lennon’s “Imagine” or the cover by A Perfect Circle (whichever you prefer), one might be in awe of the world he painted for us.

“Imagine there’s no countries,” he sings.

Could there be a more utopian idea? you might think. But such a place does exist, you are exploring this world right now as you read this article, and we must not allow forces out there to build fences that forbid us from experiencing this world freely; or separate us from our right to pluck from the trees of information; be it forbidden or not.

Most of the people calling for internet censorship did not grow up in the internet era yet are proudly ignorant in their endorsement of such regulations. Do we really have to wait until their these archaic souls cease to exist so that the internet is surrendered to us? Once these regulations are put in place, there will be no turning back as some optimists would like to think.

First, you will hear of people being put behind bars for saying something that insulted a religion, idea or a politician. These occurences would increase, and the rakyat will find a way to justify such acts even if we find ourselves drowning in our pathetic fate.

Reliable news source Utusan Malaysia had reported on 21 March 2013, that the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) would be forming a special unit called the Cyber Investigation Response Centre (CIRC) to monitor online activities and social media users. Is this kind of policing necessary?

Could the Malaysian police force be any more disproportionately irresponsible in their commitment to justice? Why dispatch police to patrol cyberspace when there is a clear shortage of cops to handle crime? I wonder what a police station with police surfing the net, snooping around facebook and twitter in search of that special someone who offended some authority’s feelings would look like.

While some might lead you to believe that the internet is where paedophiles spend their leisurely hours, it is also a frontier of free expression. I would like to believe that it is our right as Malaysians not to be limited to what the government believes is right to view, read or explore.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

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