Category Archives: The Malaysian Insider

Censorship should lie on society, not government


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Censorship should lie on society, not government
By Zan Azlee

More than a decade ago, then-prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared during the height of the Multimedia Super Corridor that Malaysia would never censor the Internet.

And this remained gospel for a long time even after his resignation, with the government not wanting to offend the country’s longest serving prime minister by going against his promise.

But slowly, things have been taking a turn for the worse. More laws have been put in place to curb freedom of speech and expression, and this has extended online.

And yesterday at Malaysia Social Media Week 2015, even the the 22-year-serving prime minister reneged on his promise that the Internet would never be censored in Malaysia.

“When I was the prime minister, an expert told me I should never censor the Internet. But now I’ve changed my mind,” he was reported to have said.

Why the sudden change of mind? Well, it seems that the regulation of the Internet, particularly social media, would ensure that no sensitivities are touched on that would offend people.

By being able to control and regulate the Internet through censorship then, they are able to control those who abuse it and make sure that it is only used for a “good purpose”.

You see, the Internet has given the ordinary person a lot of power. It gives a voice to them to spread their opinions, thoughts and beliefs with almost no limits.

And with the argument that this power can be abused, Dr Mahathir is saying that we need to curb this power because the people just can’t handle it.

Is it not obvious that this is actually a step backwards in the wrong direction? When more power comes the way of the people, it only forces them to move forward.

And by moving forward, it means maturing and developing more responsibility in order to handle that power. It doesn’t mean halting it and not giving it a chance at all.

The problem I have with this is that the argument is always because there are people who abuse the Internet by spreading hate speech and racist messages that cause division.

Sure, we have the idiots like Alvin Tan and the like who seem to think that they can say anything they want without regard for its effects just because they feel they have a right to.

But you know what? Even though they are idiots, they really do have a right to say whatever they want. And we, the public, have the right to disagree with whatever they say.

Responsibility comes in many forms and it doesn’t just lie on the party that produces and puts out the content. It also lies on the party that consumes the content.

One of the beauties of the Internet is that although it empowers people by giving them a voice, it can also cruelly punish people via obscurity.

The consumers have the power to ignore whatever content they feel is offensive, negative and derogatory, thus throwing it into the black hole of the Internet.

So if people don’t like what obnoxious people like Alvin Tan say, or racist rants by Ridhuan Tee, Datuk Ibrahim Ali or Abdul Rani Kulup, they just need to ignore it.

It is what’s known as societal censorship, and it puts control and regulation of the Internet in the hands of the people rather than the government in power.

But for this to happen, there needs to be time for society to mature and develop. And this is a process that needs to happen naturally without being curbed.

And that is why I strongly believe that the systematic censorship of the Internet with the intention of protecting society is really more detrimental to society.

[This article originally appeared on The Malaysian Insider]

Give us affordable Internet but take away our freedom to use it


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Give us affordable Internet but take away our freedom to use it
By Zan Azlee

It was with great joy that the Ministry of Communication and Multimedia announced that there would be a reduction of 14% (mobile) and 57% (fixed) in broadband prices in Malaysia.

This happened after negotiations between the ministry and the Internet service providers in the country, and all it took was the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST).

So there is a silver lining to the new tax. What is says about the preparation of the government in implementing it and that they have had to make all kinds of fixes is a totally different story!

But as far as Internet users in Malaysia are concerned, and this includes me, this week is a good week. We have waited way too long for this day to come.

We have suffered exorbitant Internet fees for so long while so many of our neighbours, like Thailand and Singapore, have enjoyed cheap and competitive rates for much faster service.

There is the question of quality. But I don’t really see that as an issue. With about 70% Internet penetration rate, we’re doing okay infrastructurally, although it can still be improved.

What is more of a concern for me as an Internet user (and this would mean 70% of Malaysians) is the freedom of the Internet in our country.

The accessibility of the Internet has provided the lay person a platform to voice out their thoughts, ideas and opinions. It has allowed them to practise their right to free speech.

This in turn encourages and builds a thinking and intellectual society that is open to discussion and discourse. It can’t be denied that this is a positive development for the country.

The Internet has also provided the media and journalists a free and unintimidating platform to be the fourth estate that they are suppose to be and are rightfully responsible for.

This in turn encourages and builds a healthy democracy so that the public is well-informed and able to make valued decisions for themselves and their country.

However, with new laws such as The Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) and the amendment of old ones such as the Sedition Act, it seems that we are moving backwards.

What can be reported on, written about, discussed and debated is now vague and blurry. With any justification, anything can actually be considered a terrorist threat or deemed seditious.

The Internet, which has been the source of so much information and intellectual discourse, has now become something that, if we’re not careful in using, could get us into trouble.

It’s like laying out a tray of sweet and tasty candy in front of our faces, but all we’re allowed to do is admire how sweet and tasty it looks without being able to eat or taste it.

So we may have cheap Internet now, but using it might cost us more than we bargain for. We are made to realise it’s potential, but damn us if we are allowed to harness it.

[This article was published first at The Malaysian Insider]

Do MPs vote according to their consciences?


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Do MPs vote according to their consciences?
By Zan Azlee

It is the right of the rakyat to question why their representative in Parliament did not attend a sitting because, well, that is the representative’s main responsibility.

And several days ago, the rakyat who voted for Pakatan Rakyat did just that when they questioned why 26 of their Members of Parliament were absent in the Dewan Rakyat.

Their absence then saw the Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2015 (POTA) being voted in 79 to 60 after being debated for over 12 hours until the wee hours of the morning.

The public was rife with criticism, complaints, accusations and anger. They said that if only all the Pakatan Rakyat representatives had showed up, then the vote would have been different.

However, it is important to note that no matter what, the Barisan Nasional representatives still outnumbered Pakatan Rakyat. Hence, the ruling party and the opposition.

And Malaysia practices the whip system where there is someone called the chief whip who makes sure that all the lawmakers from that particular party would vote along the party line.

Not all the Barisan Nasional were present on that fateful day either. And if their numbers remained the same and all of the opposition turned up, it would have been a different story.

But, if that were to happen (Pakatan Rakyat outnumbering Barisan Nasional), what would have stopped their chief whip from issuing a directive for all his people to turn up and vote? [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Hands off the journalists, please


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Hands off the journalists, please
By Zan Azlee

Many say the numerous arrests going on in the country, with the most recent being the five editors and top executives from The Malaysian Insider and The Edge Media Group, are an act of intimidation and scare tactic.

It could be working because I know fellow journalists who have said to me that they now have to watch what they report and write about because they feel that they could be arrested, too.

To be honest, I myself have entertained the thought that I need to be careful of what I write and how I express my opinion, lest it should lead me in the lock-up as well.

Somehow, when I saw my friend Jahabar Sadiq, the CEO of The Malaysian Insider, in handcuffs with hands behind the back being led by police in the Dang Wangi police station, it hit me.

It hit me that if it could happen to him, then it could happen to me and any of the journalists in Malaysia as well. And to be totally honest, it scared me.

And that fear caused me to entertain the thought that I needed to be careful. The intimidation and scare tactic was slowly taking effect. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

The problem with hudud is PAS


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The problem with hudud is PAS
By Zan Azlee

One wonders why hudud is being so hotly discussed in the public sphere. Many are against it, and they make all kinds of arguments to prove their points for why they think so.

Many are also for it, saying that it is God’s law, so much so that they would even threaten to kill and rape people to defend hudud (I wonder what God thinks about that!).

And then we have the president of it all, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who has told everyone to just wait first and listen to what he will table on hudud in Parliament before criticising.

That is the problem in the first place. Nobody seems to have any idea of how hudud is going to be implemented in Kelantan because nobody has bothered to explain it properly.

When there aren’t any clear details or information, what do you expect people to do? They get anxious and start to speculate. That is only natural.

And with all the secrecy with regards to the details of hudud, people start wondering why something that will affect the public won’t be put up for public scrutiny.

So even the people who want to support it can’t do it wholeheartedly and their only argument is that it is God’s law (when in fact it is really PAS’s interpretation of it).

Hudud has been around in Kelantan (and even in Terengganu when PAS managed to take over the state briefly) since 1993, but its implementation has never been able to be done.

There are several problems with implementing it, mainly that it is unconstitutional because it involves criminal law and the penal code, over which the state does not have jurisdiction. [Click to read the full artile at The Malaysian Insider]