Last year when the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index was announced, it showed Malaysia jumping 21 spots to 92. This was the country's best ranking since the index began in 2002.
This year, though, Malaysia's ranking tumbled 32 spots to 124, its worst position yet. This puts the country almost in the bottom quarter of the 169 countries surveyed.
The RSF report does not go into detail the situation in each country but Malaysia is mentioned alongside Thailand, Vietnam and Egypt for "serious, repeated violations of the free flow of online news and information" as key reason for its low rankings.
"We are concerned about the increase in cases of online censorship. More and more governments have realised that the Internet can play a key role in the fight for democracy and they are establishing new methods of censoring it," RSF noted in its report.
Recent high profile cases of a pair of political bloggers being sued by editors from a newspaper group as well the police questioning of a prominent political website operator and the jailing of a webmaster from an opposition party probably factored significantly in RSF's assessment of the country.
I guess the silver lining to this dismal news is that it shows that online media, even in its nascent form, is starting to become effective enough for the authorities to try to stifle it.