Banning online news sites is pointless


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Banning online news sites is pointless
By Zan Azlee

How useful is banning and blocking a website from being accessed by the public? Straight up, it just doesn’t serve any purpose because it is downright impossible.

How many of you out there right now can actually say that it is impossible to access The Malaysian Insider after the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) banned and blocked the site? It would be funny if you said so.

Okay, initially, when the block was first executed, many people reported that they couldn’t access the site and a MCMC notice came up on screen instead.

But within minutes, people already knew what to do to overcome the block. It isn’t very difficult with all kinds of VPN (virtual private network) and DNS (domain name system) services offered online that is very easy to use.

It’s like how Netflix has finally come to Malaysia formally this year, yet so many Malaysians have already been enjoying their services here years before through DNS and VPN settings.

In this new information age, there are just too many platforms and methods for people to obtain whatever information they want. If one way is blocked, a thousand alternatives can be found.

The ban against The Malaysian Insider obviously hasn’t stopped them. Their articles are still coming out just as frequent as before the ban and being spread on social media like Facebook and Twitter.

If the reason for the ban is, as they say, articles that can confuse the rakyat about the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, then it isn’t just local outlets that need to be banned. International ones should be too.

Articles and reports that are critical of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak appear almost on a daily basis on news sites like The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and The Guardian. Malaysians have full access to these.

Basically, people are still getting their information and you would think that the powers that be realise this by now. And it isn’t something that has been happening only of late.

In 2008, before the Internet penetration rate in the country became as high as it is now, there was a General Election. You would think that the spread of news articles critical of the incumbent government wouldn’t be wide.

But you would be wrong to think so. People were spreading it through SMS, and not just the short articles but the long and wordy ones as well. People didn’t even mind reading it dot matrix!

The incumbent government ended up losing five states and suffered their worst election result in history. And even then, they tried to block information about the results from appearing on mainstream media.

It was weird why they would even attempt to do so. People were bound to find out either one way or another. It just goes to show that information can never really be blocked and denied totally.

It would be much better to actually counter all the information with more accurate information so people can make up their own minds based on whoever is more convincing or truthful. It would be the obvious way, you would think.

[This article originally appeared at English.AstroAwani.Com]

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