The Internet first became available in Malaysia in 1995 and offers Malaysians a way to express alternative views that would otherwise not be allowed to appear in the country’s otherwise tightly controlled state media. In fact and while there are strict censorship laws for other forms of media, there is no official Internet censorship policy in Malaysia – so far. For that reason, many anti-government activists or critics such as political caricaturist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, otherwise known as Zunar, have turned to the Internet to express themselves when traditional avenues of expression were blocked by government censors.
Internet Access and Usage in Malaysia
Malaysia has an Internet penetration rate that places the country right behind Singapore for Internet penetration in Southeast Asia. Moreover, the Malaysian government has aggressively pushed to make the country a major IT hub through special economic zones and has also strongly encouraged broadband Internet adoption in order to facilitate the development of the country’s IT sector. Hence, the Malaysian government has largely not applied the country’s strict censorship laws to the Internet.
What Websites are Blocked in Malaysia by Internet Censorship?
However and in May 2011, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) informed Malysian ISPs to block ten websites that allow the illegal download of movies and videos. Specifically, the MCMC said it had received the blocking request from the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism’s Enforcement Division which had found that the websites contravened the country’s Copyright Act 1987.
Otherwise, there have been a number of cases where the government of Malaysia has detained, prosecuted or put pressure on Malaysian bloggers who have exposed government corruption or were critical of the government or who allegedly insulted Malaysian royalty. Specifically, the most high profiled cases involved Malaysian blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin who was detained for 56 days for writing about government corruption, Irwan Abdul Raman (otherwise known as Hassan Skodeng) who was charged for writing a satirical article about a state-owned energy firm and Khairul Nizam Abd Ghani who is facing up to one year in prison and a fine for insulting the Sultan of the State of Johor.
Internet Censorship in Malaysia: Further Reading
To learn more about Internet censorship in Malaysia, check out the OpenNet Initiative’s Malaysia profile along with Reporters Without Borders’ Malaysia country page. In addition, the Wall Street Journal has a recent article about political caricaturist Zunar and about censorship in Malaysia in general.