MCMC ban on Bersih 4 an abuse of power, opposition leaders say

DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang took to task Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak who had this week said there would no jamming of phone signals. — Picture by Choo Choy May
DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang took to task Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak who had this week said there would no jamming of phone signals. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — DAP leader Lim Kit Siang has slammed Malaysia’s internet regulator for its latest move to block websites promoting Bersih 4, claiming it was violating its pledge not to interfere with the free flow of information during the 34-hour rally.

The Gelang Patah MP said that it was “ridiculous”, “nonsense” and an abuse of its power for the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to block websites under the guise that the Bersih 4 demonstration was a “threat to national stability”.

“The world knows that there is going to be a Bersih 4 rally this weekend, not only in Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu but in at least 50 cities worldwide.

“Is the MCMC going to act and pretend that the Bersih 4 rally in Kuala Lumpur does not exist, by wiping it out of the telecommunications system? This is a most shocking manner to cope with the challenges of the information age,” he said in a statement here today.

In a statement on its official Facebook page today, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) announced it will block access to any website “spreading information” about Bersih, planned to take place in three cities throughout the country to last for 34 hours from Saturday to Sunday.

“MCMC has decided to block any websites that promote, spreading information and encourage the public to join Bersih 4.0 [sic] rally, that can affect the stability of the country, following the media statement by Home Ministry,” it said.

Lim took to task Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak who had this week said there would no jamming of phone signals.

Lim said the Malaysian public will hold him to his promise, as previous Bersih rallies had seen cellphone signals jammed, which Lim said could only happen “as a result of the directives from the powers-that-be to the telecommunication providers (telcos).”

He also said that the newly-appointed minister should ensure that the telecommunication providers expand their capacity to accommodate the masses expected to attend Bersih 4.0.

“In an Internet and information era, Malaysians expect Salleh not only to ensure that cellphone signals during the Bersih 4 rally are not jammed and rendered unserviceable, but for the telcos to greatly increase their capacities to cope with the increased traffic,” said Lim.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice president Darell Leiking also said that MCMC was overstepping its role in blocking public information that every member of the public had the rights to.

He questioned why the commission was blocking sites that were providing updates and information to those who were interested in exercising their constitutional rights whereas other forms of controversial elements are not subject to review.

“I find it perplexing that several sites which promotes hate, racism, pornography, gambling and many more dangerous promotions  and materials online are still easily accessible whereas something that promotes peace, the freedom of movement and speech and the exercise of one’s constitutional rights are subjected to review,” he said.

“They should be ensuring access to telcos as well as broadband and communications continue as people are already paying for the services. Why should the people be deprived of their paid telco services?” he said when contacted by Malay Mail Online.

Leiking called on the commission to support sites that offered information on the rally in order to ensure the public’s safety during the mass assembly which will be held in three cities in Malaysia — Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.

Only the Kuching chapter has gained approval from state authorities while Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu’s gathering are still deemed unlawful by police.

Bersih 4.0 organisers in Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu have also called the ban unconstitutional and a violation of right to information.

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