By R. Sittaparam
New Straits Times
Thursday, Jun 13, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia will not emulate Singapore's move requiring blogs and news portals to be licensed, but will instead opt for self-regulatory measures that make it necessary for blog and website owners to reveal their identities, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
He said in handling the challenges of a mature nation, the government would ensure social media practitioners are more responsible in disseminating information.
He was speaking at the Malaysian Journalists Night 2013 and Malaysian MPI-Petronas Media Awards 2012 here last night.
Najib said the government would study the proposal for blog and news portal owners to provide information about their identities in their websites.
"No more anonymous writers, as is practised now. This is to ensure that information presented isn't considered libel (fitnah), which can jeopardise unity. It is also to ensure that writers are responsible and accountable for what they write."
He said the authorities would take action against owners of blogs and portals who failed to do so.
Najib said under the Communications and Multimedia Act and MSC Malaysia Bill of Guarantees, there would be no filtering of the Internet.
However, through the implementation of self-regulatory measures, action would be taken against blog or portal owners who spread false and slanderous information, he added.
"The government, for instance, will not move to license news portals, as what has been done in a neighbouring country.
"However, to safeguard national harmony, the government will enforce laws to ensure that anyone attempting to create factionalism using race, religion, language or try to belittle the royal institution or subvert the democratic parliamentary system, will face action."
He said the country's media and news organisation landscape had evolved tremendously, with print and electronic media being complemented by online media.
"Media democracy and the freedom of expression have become a reality. We have witnessed the full use of new and traditional media in the 13th General Election."
Najib said the dissemination of false, slanderous and provocative information that incited hate in social media, which was prevalent during the polls by those who called themselves journalists, did not benefit anyone.
"This will bring a negative effect to the country's future, if it is allowed to persist."
He said it was undeniable that issues of democracy and freedom of speech were being debated by the people, which had resulted in a never-before-seen consequence called the "butterfly effect".
"The demand for freedom of speech is not only due to globalisation, but is also stimulated by greater access to the Internet and improved socio-economic and education status.
"Freedom of speech is important and will bring positive effects to the country's development, but any information presented to the masses must be accurate."
Najib said he believed that the key to success was for the people to reflect and ask themselves whether freedom of speech was suitable for their identities as Malaysians and moral values.
"It is not wrong to disagree and have different opinions. However, do we need for such differences to create distrust among us, which is against our culture?
"For democracy to function, the people and media practitioners must hold firm to their moral values."
Najib said differences in opinions must be within people's identities as Malaysians, and they must not allow it to make them distrustful.
He said being a developing country, Malaysia must also be creative and innovative in managing these new realities as the middle class had become more assertive in its demands for more discussions on government policies.
Najib urged media practitioners to highlight important issues such as unity and development, and that freedom of speech must be practised ethically and responsibly. "The people's voices and opinions are crucial in our aim to be a developed nation by 2020."
My Personal View
I am against this ruling. Why should we have to register and reveal our true identity? To reveal ourselves to spam, identity thefts and so on? This is crazy.
If you really want to go after those that posted racial remarks (mostly by Pro-BN Cyber Troopers) go ahead. There are many ways to do that. You can track the IP usage to ISP, and from ISP to their office/household.
You can get cooperation from web/blog hosting company to help you trace. You can also trace from cybercafes.
Having bloggers to register our identity is just crazy. I will not support this.