Ever imagined what it’d be like if we had certain content taken away from us on YouTube? As it is, we often come across the “This video is not made available in your country” via YouTube’s regional filter. Now, it seems that our Home Ministry is taking it to the next level – by screening our content and deciding what we can or cannot watch.
On 24th Nov, Malay Mail Online reported that the Home Ministry is working with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to set up a firewall on websites, including YouTube, to ensure content which does not adhere to guidelines set by the Film Censorship Board is not viewed by Malaysians.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said it was vital for content on the Internet, including movies, to suit local culture and sensitivity. “We are working with MCMC on this matter and I urge the commission to implement the system soon,” he said after officiating the 60th anniversary of the censorship board.
Ahmad Zahid said the public needed to understand that the censorship board had a social responsibility to ensure people were not influenced by negative elements which could be present in certain films. “We want to create awareness among the public, specifically film goers, that the censorship board has a social and religious responsibility to ensure movies adhere to set guidelines. Content creators have to make sure their content do not lead members of society out of social and religious norms,” he said.
To be honest, this is totally fine by us if it means restricted access to materials that promote terrorism or child pornography. But could this possibly mean that they would very well be taking away unadulterated documentaries, news, or even shorts/films and music videos from the “prying eyes” of Malaysians? Maybe.
And as such, civil right activists and netizens alike have since reacted to the move, with some calling it uncalled for, brash, and regressive. Others have agrees on one thing – that the planned censoring of YouTube opens doors to abuse. Co-founder of Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) Eric Paulsen spoke to Malaysian Digest regarding the issue and described the plan as a return to “the government knows best” approach where Malaysians are not given the opportunity to judge for themselves. He also cautioned that this form of censoring could eventually spread beyond its screening purpose.
“I think it’s a slippery slope, once you start censoring some films on the Internet… it’ll snowball and affect other content. I don’t think we should allow this. It would certainly infringe on an individual’s right to freedom of information, freedom of expression and freedom of speech.Even if the government wants to push ahead with the firewall, they should only block content which can lead to a high threshold of serious harm,” he said.
Anna Har, the FreedomFilmFest director, similarly advocated for Malaysians to be independent-minded and allowed to tap into information to make informed decisions, saying that censorship would put the country in the same category reputation-wise as “repressive regimes” like China and North Korea. She also questioned the censorship procedures, pointing out that abuses could easily happen.
“There is also the question of control; who decides on what needs to be censored, who carries it out, are they truly independent? Can their decisions be questioned or challenged? What are the guidelines for censoring? All these have also got to be outlined and detailed out very clearly in order that it does not lead to abuse and become counter productive to its ‘noble’ aims,” she told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
Important to note: Under Putrajaya’s 10-point Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Bill of Guarantees mooted in the 1990s, the government pledged that it will not censor the Internet, but also said that anyone who spreads illegal content online would still have to face the law. Since stepping into office last year, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek had said the Government will not censor the internet.
Again, just like what was previously discussed when there were rumours about our Government’s plan to ban Facebook, how would this affect our generation, when we more often than not rely on the Internet for information and perhaps some education beyond what our Malaysian media outlets provide? What will the Government disapprove of and filter out in efforts to “protect” Malaysians?
Does this mean that Malaysians should be kept in the dark because apparently, we can’t decide for ourselves what information is useful/not useful to us?
Let us know what you think in the comments box below.