Media statement (2) by Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, 27th January 2011:
Who are telling the truth - or who are telling lies - about government's proposed censorship of online news?
Who are telling the truth – or who are telling lies – about the government’s proposed censorship of online news?
Could one of the country’s top civil servants like the Home Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Seri Mahmood Adam be openly and blatantly telling a lie when he was reported by Bernama yesterday as saying that the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984 would be amended to expand its scope and include publications posted online and “plug loopholes”?
Mahmood had said that the Home Ministry was looking at the definition of “publication” and whether it should include Internet content, blogs or Facebook to expand the Act due to the changing landscape of the digital era.
Expressing the hope that the amendments will be tabled in Parliament by March this year because “we need to overcome weaknesses, especially those involving multimedia content”, Mahmood said the ministry was working with the Attorney-General’s Chambers to study the proposed amendments.
He revealed that he or his representative chaired a daily meeting at 8 am among his ministry, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and the Information Ministry to monitor internet content including what was shown through online video site YouTube.
Could the Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail be telling a lie when he confirmed that the Home Ministry was working the Attorney-General’s Chambers to study the proposed amendments and that his department has drawn up drafts to amend several laws including the PPPA?
Or are these two top civil servants in the country guilty of figments of the imagination with the denial and statement by the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein in the company of two other Cabinet Ministers, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and Information Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim that the government is far from ready to amend the PPPA?
How could two top civil servants who head two of the most important departments in the country make the common mistake that amendments to PPPA are ready for tabling in the March meeting of Parliament when, according to Hishammudin, the proposed changes are still "at the very, very early stages" and it has not even been decided what exactly the amendments will entail?
If Malaysians are asked as to whom they believe to have told the truth – the two top civil servants or the Ministers – there can be no doubt that the benefit of the doubt would be given to the civil servants.
The statement today by the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong that he was not aware of any plan to table amendments to the PPPA in the March meeting of Parliament does not throw any light, as he would probably be informed at the very last minute – not very much earlier than MPs and the Malaysian public.
Like the majority of Malaysians, I choose to believe the top civil servants – as they have no reason to mislead the public like the Ministers, who would have a political motive to deny that proposals have been finalized to extend the PPPA to online publications.
Clearly, freedom of expression and online publication are under grave threat. Is this part of the “political transformation” that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been talking about recently, after his Government Transformation Programme and Economic Transformation Programme?
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor