KUALA LUMPUR: Aug 28, 2008 By LEE YUK PENG, ROYCE CHEAH and SIM LEOI LEOI
The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia Malaysia or SKMM) was “only exercising its power” when it ordered the 19 Internet service providers (ISPs) in the country to block the Malaysia Today website.
“Everyone is subject to the law, even websites and blogs,” said Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar.
“We do not intend to curtail people’s freedom or right to express themselves.
“But when they publish things that are libellous, slanderous or defamatory, it is natural for SKMM to act,” he said in Parliament lobby on Thursday.
Earlier Thursday, SKMM confirmed that it had instructed ISPs to block Malaysia Today.
When contacted, SKMM chief operating officer Mohamed Sharil Mohamed Tarmizi, who is currently overseas, confirmed the order but declined to elaborate, saying a press conference would be held to explain why action had been taken.
It was reported on Thursday that notices to the ISPs were sent out on Tuesday in accordance with Section 263 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.
Section 263 falls under the National Interest Matters part of the Act which states that an SKMM licensee would prevent their facilities from being used in, or in relation to, the commission of any offence under any law of Malaysia.
It also states that upon written request of the SKMM or any other authority, the licensee would assist to prevent the commission or attempted commission of any offence under any written law of Malaysia, including but not limited to the protection of public revenue and the preservation of national security.
Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin responded by saying that blocking access to his portal was a breach of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) charter and that he would turn it into "a big issue."
Under MSC Malaysia's 10-Point Bill of Guarantees, it is stated that that Government promised to “ensure no Internet censorship” as part of its commitment to ensuring the success of MSC status companies.
Also at Parliament, Deputy Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum said he was not aware of SKMM’s directive to the ISPs.
“SKMM may have briefed the minister on the issue but not me,” he said, adding that minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor, currently in Bali, Indonesia, would return to Malaysia either later Thursday or by Friday.
Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek, when asked to comment, said, “I am aware of the issue but it is not under my jurisdiction.”
It is understood that only TMnet, the nation's largest ISP, has complied with SKMM's directive. Other ISPs contacted by The Star have declined to comment.
TMnet users can still access Malaysia Today through a mirror website however.
While unusual, SKMM's move was not unprecedented.
For example, last year, in a concerted effort with the Securities Commission, Bank Negara Malaysia and CyberSecurity Malaysia, it closed down several websites which were suspected of being involved in fraudulent investment schemes.