‘Net Censorship’ forum urges govt to allow self-regulation

KUALA LUMPUR: The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) has urged the Government to allow for more “self and market regulation” of the media.
Its executive director Sonia Randhawa said laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) and Sedition Act, among others, had affected the quality of debate and journalism in the country.
“We are concerned as the way that the laws have been applied will create a climate of fear.
“This will not only affect newspapers but the millions of Malaysians who are Internet users,” she said at a forum on “Net Censorship via PPPA: Who’s afraid of the big, bad web?” organised last night at the Central Market Annexe.
The panel also included Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom and political scientist Wong Chin Huat, who is a lecturer at the Monash University Sunway campus.
The talk was held to address recent concerns that the Government planned to expand the scope of the PPPA to include online “publications”, including Facebook and YouTube, besides plugging loopholes resulting from the changing media landscape.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had said recently that the proposed amendments to the PPPA 1984 to include the online media was still at the early stages of discussion and that nothing had been finalised.
Azmi, who is a columnist with The Star, said there was no need for more amendments.
“We just want to be rid of these laws completely so that the people can be empowered with a greater freedom of expression,” he added.
He said with the advent of communication technology, where almost everyone could be deemed a publisher, the current laws were not clear enough to encompass the Internet.
Azmi said the laws already had its restrictive hold on the media, particularly the traditional print and broadcast media.
“Our freedom of information is already curtailed. Furthermore, we have observed that these laws have been enforced selectively where some publications or portals seem to be able to get away with reports, which technically can be defined as a crime,” he said.
Wong also said media laws could no longer keep up with rapid changes in technology.
“Plugging every loophole relating to media laws will not suffice.
“We need these laws abolished and the establishment of a more relevant framework like the Freedom of Information Act,” he stressed.

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