KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 27 — Internet censorship will inevitably impact Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and discourage businesses from operating here, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.
HRW Asia Director Brad Adams added that research from China, known for its multiple bans on many popular websites like Facebook and Twitter, has shown that the move to stifle Internet freedom has affected the country’s monetary gains.
“The Chinese Communist Party School has concluded that limits on the freedom of speech has an impact on its economy and can lower the GDP of its country. Now that’s something that the party itself has discovered in China.
“All those hard lessons that people are learning in China, and it certainly applies here. We are hearing that there may be some attempts to start engaging in some forms of Internet censorship in the future and I can assure you and the business community that that will have an impact on the ability to do business in this country,” he said during the launching of HRW’s latest report on Malaysia titled “Creating a Culture of Fear: the Criminalisation of Peaceful Expression in Malaysia.”
According to Al-Jazeera, the Chinese Communist Party School is an education system aimed at training China’s 40 million strong public sector, specifically its management and administration employees.
Adams added that although China saw only “modest” losses in its GDP, the censorship was undoubtedly hurting future business opportunities.
“One of the things that is certainly true in a more repressive society is that decision makers have less access to information and this is one of the main reason why the Party School in China concluded that the firewall and censorship in China is hurting business because the leaders in China don’t really know what is going on in the rest of the country when there are these kinds of things whether it is direct censorship or self-censorship,” he explained.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak said last month that the federal government is mulling the possibility of registering online portals under planned amendments to laws regulating the Internet in the country, similar to the Singapore model.
The newly-minted minister was quoted saying that he had discussed the matter with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), in a bid to give the regulator “more bite” to block portals that are considered threats to national security.
Salleh — who took over from Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek who has since been moved to the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries portfolio — said changes are needed to prevent crimes that might arise from abusing the Internet, and not to restrict the public’s freedom.
The proposed amendments were expected to be tabled during the ongoing Parliamentary session but have yet to appear on the order papers.