MPs say press law changes will drive investors away
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 — Opposition lawmakers piled criticism today on the government’s plan to regulate online media content, predicting that the move would see severe voter backlash and hamper investor confidence in Malaysia.
DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang told The Malaysian Insider today that the Najib administration’s latest attempt to quell online dissent was a clear violation of the Barisan Nasional government’s pledge not to enforce censorship on the Internet.
The promise, he noted, was made under the 10-point Bill of Guarantees (BoGs) of the Malaysian Multimedia Super Corridor launched in 1996.
“They should be aware of this violation and if they proceed with this, they will frighten away investors.
“If the guarantee is not honoured, investors will view Malaysia as losing its credibility,” he said when contacted.
It was reported yesterday that the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 will be amended soon to expand its scope and include online media content.
National news agency Bernama quoted Home Minister secretary-general Datuk Seri Mahmood Adam as saying that the ministry was looking to redefine the word “publication” in the law to include Internet content, blogs and social network services such as Facebook.
The proposed amendments, he added, would be tabled in Parliament by March this year.
But Lim said that instead of “widening the net” of the “already controversial” PPPA, the government needed to amend the law to loosen restrictions on the organisations that it currently controls.
“They should remove the draconian bits of the law like removing the requirement for media organisations to apply for annual licences to proceed with their publications,” he said.
He added that the country presently had sufficient laws to regulate media content that were deemed overly sensitive or offensive.
“If materials are defamatory in nature, there are adequate laws to bring the writers or publishers to book.
“But here, we are trying to control online content… we are just moving backwards,” he said.
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali agreed with his Pakatan Rakyat colleague, adding that the move to regulate online media content would “dampen” the country’s economy.
“We talk about globalisation, about freedom of information, which we are doing in Selangor, and we talk about allowing easy access to information. This is what democracy is about.
“But yet we move backwards. How do we expect our economy to grow? How do we expect to attract investors to park their businesses here when everything is being controlled? We are frightening them away,” he said.