DAP calls for abolition of the Inter-Ministry Committee on Internet Censorship and its replacement by a I-way (Information Highway) Commission to recommend how to promote the highest percentage of Malaysian access to Internet and which will also address the problem of pornography on the Internet


By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Monday, October 2, 1995:

DAP calls for abolition of the Inter-Ministry Committee on Internet Censorship and its replacement by a I-way (Information Highway) Commission to recommend how to promote the highest percentage of Malaysian access to Internet and which will also address the problem of pornography on the Internet

Dr. Safar Hasim, head of the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Department of Communications yesterday commended the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad for calling on the world community to find a way to keep pornography out of the Internet and to provide for legal action to be taken against those responsible.

I confirm that I visited Dr. Ha far and. the UKM Department of Communications at Banga last Wednesday and discussed with him our “exchange” over his paper “Ridding the Internet of Ob¬scene Elements”.

I also confirm that we have cleared our “misunderstanding” as we have reached understanding on vital aspects on Internet, and Malaysia’s role in the information technology era.

I had right from the beginning stated that, there is no argument about the existence of pornography in “cyberspace” but it is wrong to create the impression that the Internet is awash with pornography.
The discredited, study by American Marty Rimm, whose undergraduate study at the Carnegie-Mellon University in the United States on “Marketing Pornography on the Information Superhighway”, which was given cover treatment by Time magazine in its 3rd July issue under the heading “Cyberporn”, has created the mischievous and baseless impression chat 83.5 per cent of the materials on the Internet, are obscene or pornographic.

Malaysia must not find herself on the wrong side in the new divide between the “information-rich” and “information-poor” nations

Dr. Safar and I agreed that Malaysia must get our priorities on the Information Highway (I-way) right – that the first priority is to promote the highest percentage of Malaysian access to Internet so that.

Malaysia will not find herself on the wrong side in a new division of the world between the “informa-tion-rich” and “information-poor” nations.

There is therefore an urgent need for a programme to educate Malaysians about the use of the information highway to inform Malaysians about its potential for social and economic development and job creation.
There must be a target as to when all schools in Malay¬sia should have access to Internet. However, a more immediate objective is to have a three-year programme to allow all university students- in the local universities to have access to Inter¬net as the number of students in the local universities who could get access to Internet for their studies and research is misera¬bly low because of inadequate funding and IT resources in the universities.

Dr. Safar and I agree that the problem of exposure of students to pornographic and other inappropriate material on the Internet should be addressed in a serious manner.

Concern about exposure of pornographic and inappropriate material on the Internet to students is not con¬fined to Malaysia, but to all countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

In Australia for instance, the Centre for International Research on Communication and Information Technologies (CIR-CIT) is currently conducting a study on this issue involving teachers, parents and even the students.

When the Information Minister, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat recently announced the formation of an Inter-Ministry Committee to propose censorship of the Internet against, pornography and other abuses, was he focussing on the problem of exposure of pornographic materials on the Internet to students?
If so, why is it his Inter-Ministry Committee comprised representatives from the Ministries of Information, Home, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, and Energy, Telecommunica¬tions and Posts but. not the Ministry of Education?

What Malaysia needs at present, is to formulate an Internet Policy rather than an Internet Censorship Policy – with the problem of pornographic material dealt with as one of the issues by the Internet Policy.
For this reason, the DAP calls for the abolition of the Inter-Ministry Cornin.itt.ee on Internet Censorship and its replacement, by a I -Way {Information Highway) Commission to recommend how to promote the highest percentage of Malaysian access to Internet and which will also address the problem of pornography on the Internet, especially the problem of exposure of students to such materials.

This I -Way Committee should comprise representatives from the Government , academia, schools, industry ,and distinguished Malaysians, for Malaysians must regard the challenge of the I -way as a national challenge and not a government or bureaucratic problem.

It is important that in discussing the problems created by Internet, it should not be forgotten that it was never-imagined that, the Internet would become a place where children can learn and play,
For 25 years the Internet had developed a culture based on those who used it: solders and other military personnel, computer scientists, aerospace engineers and a variety of university researchers. This had been described, as “a world which was uncompromisingly adult, highly educated, and almost, exclusive¬ly male” .

As a result, a culture clash or even series of distinct culture clashes are now taking place, as it is not just school children who are being connected to the Net but diverse social groups – small businesses seeking new entrepreneurial -opportunities, not-for-profit and philanthropic organisations and community groups seeking broader access to information resources.