Registration of Blogs– A retrogressive move for Malaysian “Democracy”

February 24, 2016

Registration of Blogs– A retrogressive move for Malaysian “Democracy

by Hafidz Baharom

During the weekend, Deputy Home Minister Dato’ Nur Jazlan Mohamed said that there are plans for the registration of blogs under the Ministry of Communication and Multimedia as a way to stop irresponsibility and slander.

Nur Jazlan told Bernama that this was already being done in Singapore. Now, after excessive Google searches and even asking Singaporeans, there is no information on such a registry nor a website to allow their citizens to do the registration process online.

In fact, the closest thing to what Nur Jazlan is talking about took place in June 2013. A friend highlighted the article which was published in The Economist which talked about plans of registering blogs only related to the news.

And yet all the links to the Media Development Authority of Singapore have now gone bust. Do give it a try. However, there was a guideline on registering news-related blogs reaching more than 50,000 viewers. Is this what Nur Jazlan is proposing?

Since Tan Sri Salleh Said Keruak and Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali are all gung ho about stopping slander in the news, perhaps they would like to investigate the deputy minister and the Bernama journalist who typed up the article – you know, out of the need to eat their own words.

Or maybe the Prime Minister of Singapore would like to threaten to sue Bernama but only if Bernama agrees to Singaporean law and gives up the freedom of the press. Wait, that sounds really similar to something someone was trying to do here to another media organisation.

In fact, does any government that is not under some form of dictatorship or a junta, register blogs maintained by their citizens? In 2009, the Committee to Protect Journalists listed 10 of the worst nations for bloggers – Myanmar, Iran, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Tunisia, China, Turkmenistan and Egypt.

Since then, both Myanmar and Tunisia might have gone through some changes – hopefully a change that can undo these draconian laws.

There are always reasons for measures to be taken to protect national security, but registering blogs to avoid slander is not the answer. In fact, the bigger picture is simple – nobody trusts the government any more.

Nobody reads blogs – let alone take them seriously – unless there is a reason to, and the number one reason for a government to suddenly take blogs seriously is due to people not trusting the government as a source of information.What Nur Jazlan is suggesting is the same problem the 10 governments above have – a lack of trust in their own people and the transparency to allow their citizens to ask questions and highlight if things are wrong or even if there are discrepancies.

Many first world nations have moved on from such bully tactics, as to just censor the media, and instead have used labels, such as “conspiracy theories”, “utter nonsense” and just made it into a war of propaganda between one side and the other.

The government, of course, is already doing this on Facebook and Twitter. So why target bloggers with a mandatory registration threat? Because the government cannot censor these blogs fast enough for the news to spread. And unlike Twitter or Facebook which actually requires people to register and even get governments to investigate and compel these to cooperate, blogs take a life of its own.

Case in point, when the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) threatened to block Medium – a blog service similar to Tumblr and even Blogspot and Livejournal – over entries by whistleblower site Sarawak Report, the blogging service decided to ask local authorities to clarify what was incorrect in the articles.

In a totally draconian move, the MCMC decided it did not need to give any explanation and just blocked the entire Medium blogging service.

Why did it have to take such drastic action?It is simply because the majority of Malaysians who go online, no longer believe the government’s explanations nor do they read mainstream newspapers. Instead, they choose to go for alternative media which makes blog posts into news pieces for the masses.

There is a need to win back trust, surely, but stopping people from writing blogs which could vary in topics from fan fiction to just keeping track of daily deeds, food pictures and restaurant reviews?

This was why Singapore limited it to “news-related” blogs.Not that this is less draconian.

There is no need to go for such measures. All it takes is to properly clarify all questions related to the topics at hand without anyone belonging to the government saying something stupid. After all, isn’t that why you hire public relations people in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)?

And if there are any of those holding these posts in the PMO reading this, I would recommend taking some time off to watch BBC’s “In The Thick Of It” and focus primarily on Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Turnbull. – February 23, 2016.


33 thoughts on “Registration of Blogs– A retrogressive move for Malaysian “Democracy”

  1. Najib administration shows its desperation. This is not good news if citizens are being denied freedom of expression. Listen to the people and govern well. –Din Merican

  2. Anything that will stop irresponsible slander & defamation cannot be bad.
    If you want anything free, be prepared to pay for it – that goes to freedom of expression too, balance it with accountability & responsibility.
    It is true. Freedom and responsibility are indivisible and inseparable. That applies to all including the Prime Minister and his government and its agents and cyber-troopers like Papagomo and gang. –Din Merican,

  3. Does this guy Mohamad Rahmat’s son who is another ball carrier of Najib is no better than his father. This maroon who left the PAC has no integrity and morals so he is up his arms to do his dirty tricks under BN Banner for them to survive under Najib.
    The wide spread news via blogs of their dirty tricks with hidden agendas are being exposed world wide and they fear for their own survival here. So it;s not surprising of this retrospective measures the Home Ministry is contemplating to carry out.
    This is a border less world. It is easy to set up blogs beyond Malaysian shores. Even China cannot stop blogs.–Din Merican

  4. Registering blogs is akin to shackling the “Internet of Things”. You can legislate, but not regulate. The Universe, as we experience it, works on only two requirements: energy and information. Take away either, what you have is Chaos. Even Octo understood that.

    It is a wonder that despite the tremendous expenditure paid to pro-establishment Carma bloggers and other Gua-Lu-Tolongists, they are unable to counter arguments and negative sentiments in ether.. Why? Cuz there is no “Goodwill”, much less “Freewill”. Only Free Lunches, Mediocrity and unadulterated stupidity.

    Beruk, we are not. But it would seem the suggestion of banning this and that, means that the morons are losing the Info battle and are down to their last legs.

    Since this is the Year of the fire monkey, i present this, which a dear friend sent me for CNY. I wonder whether this is ‘seditious’ to our most vaunted Min of Tourism and Culture?:

  5. Quote:- “irresponsible slander & defamation”

    The question is who decides whether any piece is or is not an irresponsible slanderous & defamatory one?

    A government which has been caught lying more than once? How do we guarantee that it is not just another device to stifle the Opposition, civil society NGOs, whistle-blowing Blogs?

    Any government that is itself irresponsible and guilt-ridden has everything to fear the alternative media. A clean, transparent, competent government has nothing to fear.

    Perhaps coffee shops should also be banned as it is one place where the most irresponsible and slanderous remarks are made and passed on.

    The whole idea is that the government wants to take the easy way out to cover up.

  6. Well, let’s see how far they can go. Registering blogs and bocking the “unsavoury” ones. They are pretty desperate, I must say. Like all things else, it’s plenty of hot air but little or no actions. Jibby’s threats to sue WSJ is a classic example. Until today bayang pun tak nampak. Malu betul. We are dealing with some very very sick and looney people from Putrajaya…

  7. I am glad that our government is becoming more transparent. Registration of blogs is not necessarily a bad thing. It will promote a new kind of responsible blog journalism. But then why stop at blogs. We should also register all those who been doing the wrong things that are inimical to the interest of the state.

  8. “Freedom and responsibility are indivisible and inseparable.”

    Mr. Merican this is not true.

    Freedom also unfortunately means being free to be irresponsible .

    That’s the reality of freedom of expression and speech.

    We impose control with laws – libel, slander etc – but even such laws are constrained in most democratic countries by higher democratic imperatives.

    UMNO can’t regain its credibility. No amount of suppression is going to get it back.
    We can agree to disagree on this point. I cannot accept the idea that freedom means freedom to be irresponsible.–Din Merican

  9. Conrad: Just for the sake of intellectual discussion, that freedom means being free to be irresponsible. When you choose to be irresponsible, are you not as responsible for that choice as for any other?

  10. The notion of freedom and its being emphasized are a result of Anglo-Protestantism, a segment of culture of British Isle. Under Anglo-Protestantism, individuals are taught to have direct relation to God, and therefore the individuals are expected to exercise conscience in his dealing with others. That inevitably leads to the emphasis of personal responsibility. It is under this background the notion of freedom is exalted to such a high value. Government is perceived as necessary evil to be contained by superior value of individual liberty as Henry Patrick passionately enjoined his country men: “Give me liberty or give me death.”

    The meaning of freedom could degrade to “do whatever ones want” if the freedom is transplanted to a culture too dissimilar to that of Anglo-Protestantism. Like trying to grow apple seeds in a tropical country.

  11. Anglo-Protestantism and Freedom, Shiou? Apa tu?

    The idea of personal freedoms go back much, much further than that – even before the advent of Martin Luther’s Reformation. Socrates ‘Republic’ started the discussion in metaphysical terms. In fact, the early Christian anarchists, besides the ascetic Desert Fathers were notorious for being ‘munchers, grazers, diggers, fornicators’ – and other strange epithets.

    These ‘anarchic’ or heterodox yearnings certainly went back to the Dawn of Civilization and can be considered as a driving force for ‘Progress and Discovery’. Is human curiosity and pushing the imposed envelope/borders, at the core of our Psyche? It’s about our faith and the future.

    So how do we deal with Enforcers who persistently Watch and Punish any deviation from any Establishment?

    The term (in Latin, Satires of Juvenal – from 1-2nd cent CE):
    “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” – ‘Who will guard the guardians’ applies.
    This applies to all tyrannical governments, uncontrolled oppressive dictatorships, judicial and police corruption/over-reach. See here:

    And it’s not only apple seeds over here, it’s also strange fig-like grape-wines, condo-cows and invasive sturgeon in our pristine tropical rivers. Failure supreme. Monkey see, monkey do. But that’s freedom for the Entitled and Super-Connected ya..?

    If speaking and writing in accordance to conscience are considered subversive, then partaking in bare-assed corruption and idiotic deeds are infinitely far more treasonous!

  12. Conrad: Just for the sake of intellectual discussion, that freedom means being free to be irresponsible. When you choose to be irresponsible, are you not as responsible for that choice as for any other?


    If I wanted to be difficult I could ask you to define what is “irresponsible” and then we get to Wayne’s point about who does the defining. But I get what you asking, LaMoy.

    Also you don’t have to be subtle or delicate, just fire away 😀

  13. @Shiou: Nothing Anglo-Protestant about the freedom we all enjoyed in Malaysia.

    ‘King of Cash’ has all the freedom and responsibility to continue distributing cash ‘legally’ with yet to be printed money. Recipients of those cash have the freedom to continue receiving the cash that cannot be refused, and responsibility in carrying out all that is needed in making sure the nation is strong and trustworthy.

    Pendatangs have the freedom to leave, remain silent, or fight.
    Melayu who has the cash and talent can do the same.
    Felda Malays can choose to be taken advantage of, and the responsibility to make sure that they will have children to continue to be taken advantage of.

    This is the Asian ‘freedom’ to be corrupted as per Thomas Fuller for us SouthEast Asians.

  14. Freedom is simply the right to an independent choice. What matter is the difference between our freely choosing something and our being forced upon even that very thing. What counts for a human being is not what he has, but whether it is the outcome of his own choice or the choice of another. Nothing can compensate a man for the loss of his humanity in the subjugation of his will to the will of another. What we get out of life depends upon what we get, not upon what someone else gives. But man’s freedom is also inseparably linked with responsibility. The significance of a choice is not exhausted by the act of choosing but extends also to what is chosen: it lies, that is, in the consequences of the act and not just in the act itself. Responsibility is only the measure of the farthest reaches of freedom.

  15. LaMoy, freedom is also intimately linked to Dignity. Or that is also passe’.
    Btw TL Man, even the modern orthodox churches have very few seats.. In fact one is free to ‘wander’ about.

  16. CLF: I agree absolutely. I thought I have implied on dignity. Due to the lack of space and my own laziness, I usually write concisely of no more than 12 lines.

  17. “But man’s freedom is also inseparably linked with responsibility.”

    This is where we disagree. Freedom is inseparably linked with obligations and consequences. Obligations and consequences are defined by the State. In functional democracies both are tempered by majoritarian will. Did I say tempered, I meant manipulated.

  18. The general notion of freedom is of course shared by many cultures, including that of Lao Zi. But the “extreme” form of freedom as practiced in the US is uniquely rooted in Anglo-Protestant culture, which is only a segment of culture of British Isles, and which happened to break loose from the Old World.

    Anglo-Protestant’s freedom is “extreme” because it elevates the value of freedom above the otherwise all-powerful government, and it institutionalizes that elevated status of freedom. Socrates talked about freedom. So was Lao Zi. So was cavemen. So was Mohammad in inverted form of freedom — i.e. freedom from oppression. But none of them, except the “extreme” form of freedom of Anglo-Protestant, succeeded in institutionalizing the freedom of conscience as a value above the reach of the government or any organized structures such as Catholic church hierarchy and Islamic theocracies. You cannot imagine a traditional catholic or Muslim fundamentalists or Confucianists genuinely call out “Give me liberty or give me death.” That is, preserving the freedom of conscience is worth dying for is true only under Anglo-Protestant culture. Anglo-Protestant’s freedom is very “extreme” by the average standard of all cultures.

    And a society such as the US can maintain its stability even after adopting the “extreme” form of freedom is because of simultaneous adoption of the “extreme” form of personal responsibility. They come in a package.

  19. Shiou: Yes, each civilization has its notion of freedom. I remember doing a paper on John Dewey’s “Responsibility and Freedom” during my sophomore year in college, in 1970. In which I compared and contrasted it to Confucianism (and some Taoism), and found a lot in similarities. I am not going to go over it here. Too lazy to write a long post.

  20. Conrad: Each man is plainly responsible, to start with, for his own individuality. What we are, each of us, is determined by one thing and by one thing only — ourselves. A man really is only what he himself has made of himself. No one and nothing else, not the State, can make anything of him as a human being: whatever a man does not make of himself does not belong to his existence as human. It belongs to him only as a thing and not as a man. In just this respect and to just this degree he falls short of actualizing the potentialities of his humanity. For what a man is as a human being no one else can be responsible. The limitless freedom of choice in which man’s existence consists is thus at the same time a boundless responsibility for what he makes of himself.

  21. Shiou – “The general notion of freedom is of course shared by many cultures”
    LaMoy – “Yes, each civilization has its notion of freedom.”

    When folks talk about differing standards of freedom, what they are actually talking about are the differing standards of the [State] mechanism that encourages or constrain freedom.

    So take Malaysia for instance, there are various types of freedoms supposedly guaranteed in the Constitution but the application of laws in practice restricts freedom in many ways. In other words, laws define freedom(s) and not the other way round.

    I think the problem here is that people sometimes view discussions of “freedom” in a normative (philosophical) sense. So freedom is not defined by how people should use it but rather how the State controls it.

  22. /// aliefalfa February 24, 2016 at 9:40 am
    Anything that will stop irresponsible slander & defamation cannot be bad.
    If you want anything free, be prepared to pay for it … ///

    alie, yes, if there are law and order in Malaysia, and the laws are interpreted impartially without fear or favour. That is a big IF. When the PM controls the AG, MACC, the judiciary and every lever of power, he defines what is slander, libel and defamation. Surely, one can slander or libel someone if one is saying the truth? And herein lies the problem – truth is determined by the power that be.

  23. LaMoy, I’m finding it difficult zeroing in on our points of disagreement. Maybe I’m not articulating my position very well. If you are interested perhaps you could highlight where you disagree with me.

  24. “So freedom is not defined by how people should use it but rather how the State controls it.”

    Yup. That’s the gist of it.

    The ‘philosophical’ or mental portion of it is ineradicable, but is fought with state sponsored propaganda and misinformation. Perceptual. Over here, it’s obvious that the Establishment has lost it. The SNAFU machinery has broken down. FUBAR-ism now rules.

    Why? Due to lack of a cohesive strategy, confusion and ‘presenters’ with impeccable integrity. Who would trust Carma types who’re afraid of their own shadows and broken periok nasi? Sedition, subversion and treason are thought crimes, inimical to the survival of the ‘Entrenched Entitled Elites’ (viz CPGA 3.85 above).

    The physical manifestations of ‘freedom’ are therefore regulated and limited. We have a criminal code (err.. Law?) for that. Selective application of which, gives more ammunition to the ‘mental’ prowess of thought crimes.

    So Liberty (Psyche) or Death (Physical), are actually interlocked in a cycle of ‘Perceived Wants’ and ‘Enforced Can’t Haves’. A potentially destructive Feedback loop.

    No One at the present moment, is able to present a Positive Feedback. Everyone is focused on the Negatives. Who started it? Not Octo, who although a physician, had very little idea of feed-backs, much less of harmful ‘autoimmunity’..

    It’s the guy who promised, but could not only could not deliver. His mantra of ‘God is Mammon, Mammon..’, was absolutely Cash dependent. So he became a criminal eyes of many. Such is the Fate of The All Entitled – in the Pursuit of Quick Laundered Wealth, False Glory and Transitory Celebrity. We call this Fat-Cat-ism.

  25. Conrad: I’m not disagreeing with you in anything, my young friend. I see every point where you’re coming from. I only stated freedom is simply about a man making his independent choices which determine what he will become. And that he is responsible for the consequences of his decisions, ultimately responsible to himself. You mentioned the laws. You let the laws define your freedom if you let them. That is called compliance. But the real freedom lies in your making the choice to comply or not to comply, and you’re responsible for the choice.

  26. Fat cats aka rogues at the helm that prevent my two cents worth of speaking up, my citizen’s right as constitutionally permitted, by closing down a site that facilitates fair comment, may mean their definition of freedom (state) differs from mine.

    But it does not escape the basic truism that every freedom exercised responsibly or irresponsibly, democratically or despotically, comes with consequences. Right now as plain Malaysian citizen deprived of my basic right also to access news and info, this move merely serves to convince me more than ever of their culpability per the allegations pertaining to their worship and obscene feasting at mammon’s feet. No rocket science, so I’d think those who voted them in before would rethink at next GE. Wishfully thinking, this may be consequence of their current exercise of freedom, to control rakyat’s. In ideal scenario when incumbents lose at next GE, I would say these bandits are responsible for the loss, if I were an insider (with unblemished record) of current ruling party: my argument for freedom is inseparable from responsibility. I may sound simplistic as I had tasted some lambasting of that shade here, but application of learned values and guiding principles are what I aim for.

    And no one can control the freedom of another’s thought processes. Like holding on to my own definition of freedom. Especially when greed, power lust and banditry, with the macabre and diabolical, still rule. Pray, it is all last legs.

  27. “You let the laws define your freedom if you let them. That is called compliance. But the real freedom lies in your making the choice to comply or not to comply, and you’re responsible for the choice”

    But that’s not it all, sensei. Compliance is not binary – do or do not – because (1) people have in the Lon L. Fuller sense, a fidelity to law and (2) laws are mutable (they change with growing consensus) which is why democracies are the best form of government. Freedom entails more than just compliance.

  28. “What about the freedom to register all illegal immigrants.” OR

    The last (few) time(s) they did that, it caused the illegal ‘immigrant’ tons of Cash to the Establishment middle man. It was justifiable, complaint-free money on the sway-backs of desperate illiterate peasants.

    So today, they are trying desperately to kick out the Chinapek middleman for the ‘swindling of eons’ kampung peasantry – and imposing their version of ‘Middle Income-ism’, i.e 25% fixed – instead of the ‘traditional’ flexible rates. One wonders why they are having such a hard time. My conjecture is that the Freedom to be the ‘Established Middle-Man’ is fraught with corruption in the highest.

    Meddling with information i.e disinformation, otoh, is considered to be good Free propaganda. Like Low Yat 2-ism.

    So the provision for freedom with ‘responsibility’ to me. simply means applying the Golden Rule, not rambling ‘truths’ from BTN or loudspeakers.

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