Tag Archives: internet

Censorship should lie on society, not government



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]

TV news and content needs social media to survive

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More people go online than they watch TV for news and content. I challenge you to prove me wrong. Come on! Prove me wrong! And if you do, I’ll give you a signed copy of my latest book, a t-shirt and a framed photo I took in Afghanistan.

Yet, the old farts involved in TV still think they are DA BOMB. Sure, let them stay in the bubble they love so much and watch it start getting smaller and smaller.

Look, I’m not saying that TV will die. It won’t. It just won’t be the number one destination anymore for news and content. And I’ve been saying this over and over again but nobody wants to listen here in Malaysia.

Dale Blasingame wrote on PBS’ Mediashift blog:

– The latest numbers from Nielsen show TV viewership amongst 25-34 year olds (you know, the demo) is down 24 percent from 2010. That percentage continues to grow every quarter.
– The University of Florida released data in February 2015 that show 83.4 percent of young people consider their primary news source as either an online-only news site, the website of a traditional news organization, Facebook, Twitter, or some other social network. Broadcast TV came in at 4.5 percent.
– What’s even more troubling for TV newsrooms? Ask young people how many of them still pay for cable or satellite. Then ask how many consume a majority of their media on mobile platforms (see the MediaShift special on cord cutting here). The answers aren’t good for the status quo in TV news.


And then when it comes to content on the Internet, I have also been convinced that websites and portals are no longer relevant. There is no one place to collate all your content for people to come and consume.

Stories (articles, videos, photos, or whatever) will now sole exist in the realm of social media. And it will cease to exist once the people who consume it say so. People will like and share good content while bad ones just die in obscurity.

So it doesn’t matter where your content is consumed, The important thing is that it just gets consumed. It can be on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or whatever (much less on a single portal!), and it doesn’t matter.

You see, putting something on a single portal and making sure that everyone comes to it for all your content makes it easy to track and it just means that you’re too lazy to think of other ways to evaluate and track your content that exists independently online.

Blasingame goes on to say:

We want news. We want content. But how we consume it, when we consume it and, most important, where we consume it is fundamentally different – and many TV newsrooms either don’t get that or refuse to accept it.

The idea that people still wait for news to be delivered to them on their televisions at 5, 6, or 10 p.m. is beyond outdated. We want content now – in some sort or fashion.

TV newsrooms can’t hide behind the “second screen” excuse anymore. They need to understand the TV may be the second screen when it comes to their content – and that situation will only increase as time goes on.


Also, the fact that TV news and content is so fixed in their ways isn’t helping at all. Just because they have been doing stories a certain way (eg: voice-over, cutaways, stand-uppers, blah blah blah) doesn’t mean that there aren’t any other ways to do it.

See! It’s an old fashion mentality that just isn’t open to new ideas and ways of storytelling and distributing those stories.

Blasingame again:

TV newsrooms have to get out of the box that tells them packages, VOs, and VOSOTs are the only way to tell stories.

Okay. Now that a Mat Salleh has said it, are you going to believe him and ignore the fact that i have been predicting this for years previously? But then again, don’t take my word for it. Go read the blog entry here: How TV newsrooms should use Facebook (and why).

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

access denied!


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]

#TanyaGomen with the Minister of Communication & Multimedia

I had the opportunity to host #TanyaGomen with Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

The Internet is something that affects everyone’s lives. And so The Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) organised a session called #TanyaGomen where I sat down with the Minister of Communication and Multimedia, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, to discuss issues ranging from the expensive broadband prices in the country, how creativity and entrepreneurship through technology is developing our society and even GST. And of course, the major element of #TanyaGomen is the opportunity for the public to directly pose questions to the minister. Read about it at ‘#TanyaGomen bersama Datuk Shabery Cheek‘.

Elections in the digital age… will it truly not be televised?

I covered the 11th and 12th General Elections. Now I can’t wait for the 13th!

Elections in the digital age
By Zan Azlee

DEC 16 — In my career as a journalist, I have managed to cover two general elections — the ones in 2004 and 2008.

In 2004, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was leading Barisan Nasional (BN) in an election for the first time and many saw him as a refreshing change after 22 years of Mahathirism.

The Internet was around then but its penetration wasn’t that high (37 per cent) and broadband was in its infancy in the country.

Barisan Nasional, as expected, won the elections in a landslide victory.

I covered the elections in the Lembah Pantai constituency where Shahrizat Jalil was the BN candidate and she defeated Sanusi Osman from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

Nothing out of the ordinary happened.

In 2008, Abdullah was losing his grip on Umno. The elections took place and BN suffered its worst results in an election ever (although it still won). [Click to read the rest of the article at The Malaysian Insider]

Here’s the documentary (R.A.H.M.A.N.) I made in 2004 about the elections:

And then the one in 2008 (I May be Malaysian, But I Carry a Big Stick):