Monday 15 August 2011

Najib: Censorship no longer ‘effective’, needs review

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today the government would review its current media censorship laws, stressing that it was no longer an “effective” method in the current era.

“Censorship in this new era, it has to be asked. Is it effective, meaningful, relevant, or will it cause more damage,” the prime minister said today.

“I’ve decided the old ways of censorship needs to be studied. Censorship is no longer effective and should be reviewed.”

Najib cited the example of an article by British weekly The Economist on the July 9 Bersih rally, which was censored by his administration but readily available online, and admitted that the act of censorship brought about negative publicity.

“The very act of censoring (The Economist) made more news than the actual story,” added the PM.
Najib said that there were other methods to deal with “untruthful” or defamatory news, saying the government can resort to “legal means.”

“If the international media wants to criticise us, let them be. If it’s defamatory, we can resort to legal means,” said Najib.

Electoral reforms group Bersih marched the streets on July 9 to demand for fair and free elections, defying warnings of police action, which finally resulted in nearly 1,700 arrests, scores injured and one ex-soldier dead.

Malaysia’s print press is subject to the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA), which requires all newspapers and magazines to obtain an annually-renewed permit from the Home Ministry before they are allowed to publish print content.

Reporting in the print media can be punished under the “national security” clause in the PPPA.
Also, under the PPPA, inaccurate news is termed “false news” and is punishable with a one-year imprisonment.
Critics of the Act have described it as a sword hanging over the heads of publishers and editors, and exploited by the government to control dissent.

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