M'sian govt may clamp down on Web media

The Malaysian government indicated on Thursday that it was working on ways to extend its control into cyberspace.

KUALA LUMPUR--Local Internet publications beware. In another indication that controls would be clamped on the Web sooner rather than later, the government indicated on Thursday that it was working on ways to extend its control into cyberspace.

News-related Web sites seem to be the target of the authorities as they are trying to tighten several laws including the Printing Press and Publications Act 1984.

"We have many Internet dailies which are not licensed under the Printing Press and Publications act 1984. But hate messages, seditious writings, racial and religious topics are being brought out into the open now," minister in the Prime Minister's Department Dr Rais Yatim said in his opening address at the 2nd MSC International Cyberlaws Conference.

"Critics of the government must be rubbing their hands in glee for the freedom afforded to them by the Internet."

However, he hinted that in the near future, the political opponents of the government may not have it that easy.

At a press conference later, when asked if a government clamp down on Web sites were a breach of repeated government guarantees not to censor the Net, Rais said: "A crime is still a crime, we did not exclude ourselves from making laws which we need to protect the country."

He also said any changes in the laws pertaining to the Internet would not infringe on Malaysians' civil rights.

The country's stability, Rais said, took precedent over anything else, even in the face of major advances in the cyber sector.

Other laws that needed reviewing in the face of the new "virtual" challenges, are the Penal Code, the Evidence Act 1950 and the Restricted Residence Act 1933.

Rais also emphasized the need for the re-evaluation of other existing laws relevant to the business community with the increasing proliferation of electronic transactions.

The conference is jointly organized by Multimedia Development Corporation, Asian Strategy & Leadership Incorporated Sdn Bhd and Bar Council Malaysia.