With regard to online expression, the government has, on multiple occasions, circumvented protections afforded by the MSC Bill of Guarantees and the CMA,28 carrying out arbitrary Yung-Hui Lim, “105,779,710 Users and New Estimates of Twitter Users in Asia,” GreyReview, April 20, 2010, http://www.greyreview.com/2010/04/20/105779710-million-users-and-new-estimates-of-twitter-users-in-asia/; “Rais: Million Bloggers Proves media Freedom,” Malaysian Digest, June 17, 2010, http://www.malaysiandigest.com/entertainmentlifestyle/4742-rais-2-million-bloggers-proves-media-freedom.html.
Najib Razak’s blog, 1Malaysia, can be found at http://www.1malaysia.com.my/.
Sopheap Chak, “Penang Watch,” Technology for Transparency Network, February 25, 2010, http://transparency.globalvoicesonline.org/project/penang-watch.
Jerrenn Lam, “Malaysia: Home Ministry Bans Controversial Book,” Global Voices, October 4, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/10/04/malaysia-home-ministry-bans-controversial-book/.
“Malaysia’s Bloggers Debate ‘Allah’ Issue,” Union of Catholic Asian News, May 24, 2010, http://www.ucanews.com/2010/05/24/muslim-bloggers-debate-%E2%80%98allah%E2%80%99-issue/.
Ahirudin Bin Attan, “National Alliance of Bloggers Set Up,” Rock’y Bru (blog), April 5, 2007, http://rockybru.com.my/2007/04/national-alliance-of-bloggers-set-up.html.
Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), “MSC Malaysia 10-Point Bill of Guarantees,” http://www.mscmalaysia.my/topic/MSC+Malaysia+Bill+of+Guarantees, accessed November 16, 2010; MCMC, “Communications and Multimedia Act 1998,” http://www.skmm.gov.my/index.phpc=public&v=art_view&art_id=43, MALAYSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net arrests and launching investigations against internet users under the older, more restrictive laws that had principally been applied to traditional media. In 2009 and 2010, the government also sought to restrict online expression under the CMA itself, particularly relying on the broadly worded Section 233, which bans content deemed “indecent, obscene, false, threatening, or offensive.”Throughout 2009 and 2010, a number of bloggers faced legal harassment, intimidation, fines, and brief periods of detention. No bloggers were imprisoned at year’s end, though several had charges pending against them. Bloggers who had been targeted earlier also continued to face legal proceedings, and some new charges were issued. Raja Petra, the blogger and Malaysia Today founder, was charged with sedition and criminal defamation in 2009 over his writings implicating the prime minister and his wife in the killing of a Mongolian national. He left the country halfway through his trial, and warrants were issued for his arrest.30 The charges against him were dropped pending his return to Malaysia. In 2010, new police reports were filed against Petra for his continued criticism of the government from exile,31 with many ruling party leaders calling for him to be extradited and put on trial. Some have also called for his citizenship to be revoked.32 In another case, musician Wee Meng Chee, also known as NameWee, was investigated in August 2007 for a parody of the national anthem that was posted on YouTube, and faced another probe in for criticizing national power supplier Tenaga Nasional over a blackout. In August 2010, police reportedly visited Wee late at night, allegedly as part of an investigation of sedition charges for a video he had posted on YouTube criticizing a school principal for expressing racist slurs about her students.Over the last two years, several individuals have also been arrested and charged with sedition under the CMA for comments posted in blogs,34 and for alleged threats made on Facebook.35 Many of these cases involve individuals who had been critical of Malaysian accessed November 16, 2010.
Reporters Without Borders, “Malaysiakini Website Refuses to Bow to Censorship.” Teh Eng Hock, “Raja Petra Can’t Be Tried in Britain,” Star Online, May 26, 2010, http://thestar.com.my/news/story.aspfile=/2010/5/26/nation/6340987&sec=nation.
K Kabilan, “RPK: 1Malaysia Will Be Najib’s Downfall,” Free Malaysia Today, May 25, 2010, http://politicalwatchmalaysia.blogspot.com/2010/05/rpk-1malaysia-will-be-najibs-downfall.html “Perkasa Makes Police Report Against Raja Petra,” Malaysia Today, January 7, 2010; http://malaysia-today.net/mtcolumns/newscommentaries/29452perkasa-makes-police-report-against-raja-petra.
“Revoke RPK’s Citizenship, Government Urged,” Star Online, May 30, 2010, http://thestar.com.my/news/story.aspfile=/2010/5/30/nation/6369336&sec=nation.
“High-Voltage Insult of TNB Lands Namewee in Trouble,” Malaysiakini, November 24, 2009, http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/118254; Lim Kit Siang, “Why Police Investigating Wee Meng Chee for Sedition When There is Nothing Seditious in his Latest 3-Minute Rap Against the Kulai Secondary School Principal for Making Racist Slurs Against Students,” Lim Kit Siang (blog), August 31, 2010, http://blog.limkitsiang.com/2010/08/31/why-police-investigatingwee-meng-chee-for-sedition-when-there-is-nothing-seditious-in-his-latest-3-minute-rap-against-the-kulai-secondary-schoolprincipal-for-making-racist-slurs-against-students/.
34 Charles Ramendran, “Bomb Threat by Blogger,” Sun2Surf, January 13, 2010, http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfmid=42322.
G Vinod, “PAS Member: I Did Not Threaten to Kill Saiful,” Free Malaysia Today, May 19, 2010, MALAYSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net royalty. In early 2009, a constitutional crisis erupted in the state of Perak, where the opposition had gained control in the 2008 elections. Due to defections to the BN, the two sides became evenly divided in the state legislature, both claiming the right to govern.
Perak’s head of state, Sultan Azlan Shahmade, subsequently made a crucial decision that allowed the BN to regain control of the state government, prompting some internet users to criticize the sultan. Among them were two bloggers, Ahiruddin Attan, known online as Rocky Bru, and Jed Yoong, a former writer for the opposition Democratic Action Party’s publication Rocket. They were questioned by police in February 2009 over their critiques of the monarchy, but were quickly released.36 In March of that year, eight more people were charged for making online comments that allegedly insulted the Perak royal family under Section 233(1) of the CMA and Section 34 of the penal code. One of the individuals pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a fine of 10,000 ringgits (US$2,700) or, in default, five months in jail.37 The spate of cases marked the first time the CMA had been used to charge individuals for comments posted online, setting a precedent that continued to play out in 2010. In January, blogger Khairul Nizam Abdul Ghani was charged with sedition under the CMA for posting comments that insulted a deceased state ruler. He faced a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of up to 50,000 ringgits (US$13,500).In some cases, bloggers faced legal harassment for content that most observers regarded as humorous satire. On September 24, 2010, police arrested cartoonist Zulfiklee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, under the country’s Internal Security Act, for publishing cartoons that were deemed insulting to the prime minister and his deputy. Police seized more than 60 copies of a newly published book of his cartoons and raided the offices of Malaysiakini, where Zunar works. Zunar was released soon after his arrest and no formal charges were pressed, though they could be revived at any time.39 As of the end of 2010, he was reportedly attempting to sue the authorities for unlawful detention.40 Another blogger, Irwan Abdul Rahman, was charged by the MCMC for circulating false news over a satirical blog post claiming that Malaysia’s main utility company was planning to sue the World Wildlife Fund for its Earth Hour initiative, in which individuals are requested to turn off all http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/fmt-english/news/general/5771-pas-member-i-did-not-threaten-to-kill-saiful.
Centre for Independent Journalism, “Debate on Royal Powers Draws Attacks and Threats; Bloggers Ahiruddin Attan and Jed Yoong Questioned by Police,” International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), March 4, 2009, http://www.ifex.org/malaysia/2009/03/04/capsule_report_debate_on_royal/.
Centre for Independent Journalism, “Six People Charged with ‘Insulting’ Royalty Online,” IFEX, March 16, 2010, http://www.ifex.org/malaysia/2009/03/16/six_people_charged_with_insulting/; IFEX, “Government Hounds Bloggers That Criticise Royalty,” news release, March 25, 2009, http://www.ifex.org/malaysia/2009/03/25/government_hounds_bloggers_that/.
“Malaysian Blogger Charged with Insulting Dead Sultan,” China Post, January 31, 2010, http://www.chinapost.com.tw/asia/malaysia/2010/01/31/243065/Malaysian-blogger.htm.
“Malaysian Cartoonist Goes into Hiding After Sedition Arrest,” RFI English, September 28, 2010, http://www.english.rfi.fr/asia-pacific/20100928-malaysian-cartoonist-goes-hiding-after-sedition-arrest.
Tom Spurgeon, “CR Holiday Interview #7: Zunar,” The Comics Reporter, December 27, 2010, http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/cr_holiday_interview_7_zunar/.
MALAYSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net lights and electrical appliances for one hour.41 He was released on bail, and the court date was set for March 2011. If found guilty, Rahman could be fined up to 50,000 ringgits (US$13,500) or be sentenced to a year in jail.Two other cases involved complaints over content related to religion or corruption allegations. On August 9, 2010, the right–wing group Perkasa lodged a complaint against blogger Helen Ang for authoring an article that questioned the position of Islam in Malaysia.43 In October, Malaysia’s minister for Information, Communication and Culture lodged a police complaint against two bloggers who alleged that the minister’s son had received part of the ministry’s1 billion ringgits (US$ 320 million) allocated for improving broadband access in the country.44 The minister denied the allegations.
The extent of government surveillance of the internet is unclear. However, in recent years the authorities have repeatedly hinted that they may take steps to register bloggers. The information minister floated the idea in May 2009 and again in January 2010, but it was temporarily set aside following protests by the blogging community and several media outlets. Privacy protections are generally poor in Malaysia, and the Internal Security Act allows police to search and seize evidence without a warrant.45 The authorities appear to be capable of tracking down anonymous internet and mobile-phone users with the help of service providers. Indeed, ongoing court cases indicate that police regularly gain access to the content of text messages from telecommunications companies, sometimes without needing to go through judicial channels. Beginning in 2007, all mobile-phone users, including roughly 18 million prepaid users, were required to register as part of an effort to decrease rumor-mongering activities,46 though the rule appears to have been weakly enforced. Users in cybercafes are not required to register.
While bloggers and online journalists have been subject to arbitrary arrest, they generally do not face physical violence. However, independent online news outlets and some opposition-related websites faced repeated distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks in 2009 and 2010. Although the attacks have not been conclusively traced to the government, some observers believe that they are either sponsored or condoned by Malaysian security agencies. The Malaysia Today website reportedly faced two such attacks in 2009 and another two in 2010, with each crippling the site for four to six hours. A new website, Free Malaysia Reena Raj, “MM Editor Charged for Poking Fun at TNB,” Malay Mail, September 2, 2010, http://www.mmail.com.my/content/48276-mm-editor-charged-poking-fun-tnb.
Hafizah Hoze Rizal, “Blogger Hassan Skodeng’s Case Set for March 15,” Malay Mail, January 26, 2011, http://www.mmail.com.my/content/62051-blogger-hassan-skodengs-case-set-march-15.
“Perkasa Lodges Report Against Blogger,” Malaysian Insider, August 9, 2010, http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/perkasa-lodges-report-against-blogger/.
Cecilia Victor, “Rais Yatim Lodges Report Over Allegations Against Son,” Malay Mail, October 12, 2010, http://www.mmail.com.my/content/52046-rais-yatim-lodges-report-over-allegations-against-son.
Privacy International, “Privacy in Asia: Final Report of Scoping Project,” November 2009, https://www.privacyinternational.org/issues/asia/privacy_in_asia_phase_1_report.pdf.
“Dec 15 Registration Deadline Stays: MCMC,” Bernama, August 18, 2006, http://www.bernama.com/kpdnhep/news.phpid=214811&lang=en, accessed March 20, 2009.
MALAYSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net Today, launched in November 2009, was subject to multiple attacks throughout 2010.Similarly, oppositionist websites such as the official site of the People’s Justice Party and the blog of its leader, Anwar Ibrahim, suffered DDoS attacks in 2010.“FMT Comes Under DDOS Attack,” Free Malaysia Today, April 7, 2010, http://freemalaysiatoday.com/fmtenglish/news/general/4294-fmt-comes-under-ddos-attack.
Neville Spykerman, “Cyber Attack: Anwar’s Blog Latest to Be Hit,” Malaysia Today, September 10, 2010, http://www.malaysia-today.net/mtcolumns/newscommentaries/34410-cyber-attack-anwars-blog-latest-to-be-hit.
MALAYSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net MEXICO 2009 POPULATION: 110.7 million INTERNET FREEDOM n/a Partly INTERNET PENETRATION: 28 percent STATUS Free WEB 2.0 APPLICATIONS BLOCKED: No Obstacles to Access n/a SUBSTANTIAL POLITICAL CENSORSHIP: No Limits on Content n/a BLOGGERS/ONLINE USERS ARRESTED: No Violations of User Rights n/a PRESS FREEDOM STATUS: Partly Free Total n/a INTRODUCTION In February 1989, the Autonomous Technological Institute of Monterrey established Mexico’s first internet connection.1 Despite dramatic growth in internet penetration over the last 21 years, the majority of the population, particularly in rural areas, still lacks affordable access. This is largely due to infrastructural deficiencies and high prices resulting from ownership concentration in the telecommunications sector. Nevertheless, access to the internet is expanding, government initiatives are underway to narrow the digital divide, and mobile-phones are widely available.