Open up government, not shut down media, Putrajaya toldKUALA LUMPUR, June 4 — The Najib administration should emulate Singapore’s transparent and accountable governance and not copy the republic’s backwards approach in suppressing media freedom, the DAP said today.
The opposition party’s secretary-general Lim Guan Eng (picture) chided Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek for giving weight to the Lion City’s latest measure to regulate online news companies reporting on Singapore, saying the idea would violate the government’s pledge against Internet censorship as laid down in the Bill of Guarantees to promote the Multimedia Super-Corridor (MSC).
“DAP regrets that newly-minted Communications and Multimedia Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek is starting off his tenure by breaking BN’s earliest promise of not censoring the internet in wanting to regulate online portals,” Lim said in a statement.
“Of all the things that we can learn from Singapore, one of the few things that we should not learn is Singaporean approach in media control,” the DAP’s social media strategist said, adding in her statement that if the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government were serious about adopting policies from its neighbour, it should open up to tender government procurement and disclose fully its privatisation contracts.
Yeo pointed out that Singapore outranked Malaysia in both the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) last year and Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) 2012.
Singapore was ranked fifth by world graft watchdog Transparency International in its CPI 2012 while Malaysia limped home in 54th spot out of 176 countries.
Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy was also pegged at 25th position in the GCI while the World Economic Forum placed Singapore second out of 144 countries.
The only index in which Malaysia trumped its southern neighbour was in the latest Press Freedom Index 2013. Despite falling 23 rungs to place 145th out of 179 countries, Malaysia still recorded a better ranking in the list by Reporters Without Borders than Singapore, which stood at 149.
Yeo pointed Ahmad to the slew of laws already in place to regulate local media, such as the Printing and Presses Publication Act, the Security Offences Act and amended section 114(A) of Evidence Act, and questioned if adding Singapore’s approach was just an excuse to clamp down further on Internet freedom.
“Perhaps Singapore’s move is just an excuse for the BN government to implement their long awaited wish to suppress the Internet freedom?” the Selangor state lawmaker asked.
Long shut-out from the BN-controlled newspapers and radio and television networks, the DAP, PKR and PAS had resorted to setting up their own news channels on the Internet using platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to reach out to Malaysian voters since before Election 2008.
Their online campaign over the last five years had gained greater momentum which their political rivals attempted to counter.
The BN had spent millions of ringgit hiring an extensive corp of cybertroopers to battle the opposition’s allegations and promote government initiatives in an effort to reach younger voters, but appeared to have failed in Election 2013, leading some observers to dub it a social media war.
The Damansara Utama assemblyman suggested that Ahmad’s move showed the BN government to be so “kiasu” — a Hokkien term meaning “afraid of losing” — to the extent it would tighten control of the Internet in order to retain its grip on power.
“We call upon the Barisan Nasional government not to become a copycat or a kiasu government, using draconian approaches to restrict the right of all Malaysians to full access of information on the Internet,” Yeo said, and suggested the minister read up on the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Internet Freedom passed last July 5.