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.