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Registration of bloggers not being considered, says prime minister

Prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday contradicted a statement by his energy, water and communications minister and said it was not necessary to ask bloggers to register with the authorities.

Existing laws were sufficient to deter them from posting illegal content, he said, and compulsory registration would simply drive them to use servers based outside the country.

06.04.07 - Government plans to force bloggers to register

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about a statement by the deputy minister of energy, water and communications, Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor, on 4 April that, in order to prevent the spread of “negative or malicious content,” bloggers will soon have to register with the government.

While claiming they do not intend to censor bloggers, they have warned that bloggers are not above the law when they “disturb peace and harmony” in Malaysia.

“This measure could jeopardise online free expression,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It could push many bloggers to opt for anonymity or censor themselves out of fear of reprisals. The deputy minister’s statement once again demonstrates the government’s desire to exercise improper control over the online flow of information inside Malaysia. The obligatory registering of blogs is a measure that so far has only been adopted by countries such as China that violate Internet users’ rights.”

The political parties and the government control most of the media in Malaysia. The most popular blogs serve as a counter-weight, offering political comment that is often critical of the government. Science and technology minister Kong Cho Ha said on 4 December that he wanted to “create strict laws to control abuses on the Internet” and to dissuade “bloggers from advocating disorder and chaos in society.”

On 19 January, Reporters Without Borders took up the cause of two Malaysian bloggers who are the target of libel suits by members of the staff of the New Straits Times, a Malaysian newspaper. Jeff Ooi, who writes one of the country’s most popular blogs, Screenshots, has been sued for refusing to take down 13 posts which the newspaper’s staffers consider to be defamatory.

Ahiruddin Attan, who produces a blog called Rockybru, says he is being sued over a post in which he accused some of the newspaper’s journalists of being agents of the Singaporean government.

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Obstacles to the free flow of information online

Analyses :
A call for vigilance
Let’s not forget 10 September 2001
On a Filtered Internet, Things Are Not As They Seem
Choose a country :
9 June 2008 - Turkey
YouTube blocked for more than a month is an “unacceptable” act of censorship
5 June 2008 - Singapore
US blogger freed on bail
5 June 2008 - Thailand
Lese-majeste accusations used to restrict freedom of expression
3 June 2008 - Russia
The Moscow apartment of the lawyer for the news portal searched by the authorities
3 June 2008 - Syria
Youth held for past year because of comments posted online
2 June 2008 - Egypt
Blogger Kareem el-Beheiri freed after 73 days in prison
27 May 2008 - Kazakhstan
Letter to Information and Culture minister about blocking of Radio Free Europe website
21 May 2008 - Iran
Almost 20 websites blocked as online censorship grows
20 May 2008 - United States
US Senate Subcommittee looks at role of US companies in online censorship abroad
20 May 2008 - Thailand
Government steps up online censorship, creates toll-free number for Internet users to call to report websites that criticise monarchy

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