KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 ― Telekom Malaysia (TM) refused today to confirm if it had blocked access to a BBC webpage that reported Malaysians lampooning the prime minister over his “kangkung” remark, saying only that it “complies” with regulations set by Malaysia’s Internet regulators.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) earlier today denied, however, restricting access to the British news service’s report headlined “#BBCtrending: Be careful what you say about spinach”, after Malaysian users complained of not being able to access the article late last night and this morning.
“With regards to the allegation on the inaccessibility to a certain article on the BBC website, TM wishes to reiterate that issues of national content blocking should be directed to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC),” said TM in a short statement today.
“TM, as a service provider, complies with the national regulations on the Internet. As Malaysia’s broadband champion, TM remains committed to ensure that our network and services are up and running smoothly in delivering an enhanced and integrated digital lifestyle to all Malaysians,” added the communications service provider.
Access to the BBC report, however, appears to have been restored this afternoon after a public outcry on social media.
Difficulties in accessing the article had appeared to primarily affect Internet users on TM’s network.
Those using other internet service providers reported sporadic success in accessing the page in question.
Users also reported common workarounds to bypass local restrictions to web access, such as alternative domain name servers (DNS), to be ineffective at beating the suspected block.
Internet access is ostensibly free from censorship in Malaysia under the Multimedia Super Corridor’s Bill of Guarantees, but MCMC is empowered to restrict access to objectionable content, such as pornography or fraudulent websites, under Section 211 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
The “kangkung” controversy erupted as Malaysians, hit by a slew of price hikes in essential goods and services from the start of the new year, took issue with the Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s use of the water spinach in a recent analogy.
Najib had questioned recently why the government is blamed whenever the prices of goods rise, but not conversely praised when these fall, pointing out that the cost of kangkung has dropped.
The prime minister’s remarks immediately sparked widespread mockery on social media, with kangkung memes flooding Facebook and Twitter, while a YouTube remix of his comments has also been uploaded and “Keep calm and eat kangkung” T-shirts made.