KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — The Communications and Multimedia Ministry has sent proposed legal amendments that will force news portals and blogs to register with the government to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak said, however, that his ministry will work to ensure that the amendments do not infringe on the rights of the non-political bloggers.
“So we have sent it to the AG to look at the amendments… we are looking at all considerations. But you must remember some blogs are not political, they may be involved in fashion, there are many other blogs.
“When registering online newspapers, there must be set criteria… We have to see if it will burden the ordinary citizen, because sometimes they have a blog of their own, we have to take it into consideration,” he said when met at the lobby of the Dewan Rakyat today.
He added that requiring news portals to register with the government was not intended to quell dissent, but part of Putrajaya’s bid to ensure that existing laws are current with the times.
Salleh pointed out that the Internet was a major part of Malaysia today, both in business and in personal lives.
“What we want to educate the public is to please use the Internet to uplift the economy not to increase your social networking. There’s freedom of speech but no freedom to destroy the nation,” he added.
On March 16, Malay Mail Online reported Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed as saying that Putrajaya has begun preliminary discussions on possibly making news portal and blogs register with the government in order to operate.
Journalists with online news outlets must already register with Putrajaya in order to cover official events, although the organisations themselves are not currently subject to specific rules or regulations beyond those applicable to the general public.
He said the new requirement would allow Putrajaya to regulate online news outlets in the same manner as print media.
Under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, the home minister has the power to suspend a print publication. In 2014, the government removed a requirement for print media organisations to apply for printing permits annually, although these may still be suspended at any time.
News about the government’s plan for compulsory registration for online publications first emerged when Nur Jazlan said that the Home Ministry wanted bloggers to register with the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission in order for authorities to be able to monitor comments and articles which are defamatory in nature.
The proposal would be a further step back from Putrajaya’s original pledge to leave Internet access in Malaysia uncensored, which it made when it first established the Multimedia Super Corridor in the 1990s.
The guarantee has since been broken and the government sporadically blocks sites deemed unsuitable for local consumption, such as pornographic sites, or those considered to have violated local laws.