According to a recent New York Times article, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak has called for a re-examination of the “old ways” of censorship, which heavily restrict newspapers, radio, and television within the largely Muslim country. While these media outlets have been heavily censored in past years, it is interesting to note that the Internet has remained mostly free from government regulation, with only a few exceptions recently.
The Prime Minister’s announcement came after many parts of the British magazine “The Economist” were blacked out in the print version that circulated throughout Malaysia, while the online version remained un-edited and easy for Malaysians to access the entire, un-censored edition. According to Steven Gan, editor in chief of Malaysiakini, one of Malaysia’s largest online news sources, it finally became clear to the government that they had lost their “monopoly on truth.”
Even as Prime Minister Razak has admitted that the old ways of censorship are no longer effective, and thus need to be reviewed, this does not mean a censorship-free Malaysia will be born anytime soon. In a county where the number of internet uses has grown from 3.7 million in 2000 to 16.1 million in the past year, the goal of reaching full access to news seems dim, as Malaysia’s home affairs minister Hishammuddin Hussein commented that “in a multiracial and multireligious society, filtering must be done, as absolute freedom can cause chaos.”
At this early juncture it is hard to predict exactly what Hussein’s comment will entail for Malaysia, and whether any real strides towards diminishing censorship will actually be made. At least for now, the issue of censorship has been publicized, and hopefully will not be “censored” from the agendas of Malaysian leaders.