DAP welcomes signs of a more open government attitude towards Internet and the backing down of the obscurantist approach advocated by the information Minister, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat


by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Sunday, November 5, 1995:

DAP welcomes signs of a more open government attitude towards Internet and the backing down of the obscurantist approach advocated by the Information Minister, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat.

I welcome signs of a more open government attitude towards internet and the backing down of the obscurantist approach advocated by the Information Minister, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat.

In September this year, on his return from a trip to United States, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat had issued stern warnings that the Government was closely monitoring the activities of some students abroad who were spreading disinformation on Malaysia through the Internet.

A few days earlier, he had announced in Michigan that the Government had set up a Inter-Ministry Committee, comprising representatives of the Information, Home, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, and Energy, Telecommunications and Posts Ministries to look into abuses on the Internet, referring specifically to the “rampant spread of sex culture or pornography” and “dissemination of negative information… to oppose their governments”.

I had criticized Datuk Mohamed Rahmat;s comments and warnings and stressed that Malaysia needs an Information Minister, who had the proper order of priorities about Internet, which is to develop a National Information Infrastructure (NII) and to get maximum number of Malaysians to make beneficial use of the Internet, rather than to frighten Malaysians from the Information superhighway and the new information revolution.

This prompted me to direct a specific question to the Information Minister, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat, in the current meeting of Parliament, namely:

“To ask the Minister of Information to state what are the areas of concern of the Government about the Internet and how the government proposes to impose censorship on the Internet on the ground that Malaysian students abroad are spreading misinformation about the country overseas as well as because of pornography on the Internet.”

I received a reply, not from the Information Minster, but from the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Law Hieng Ding, who said that the Government has no plans to censor information on the Internet although cases of overseas Malaysian students providing misinformation about the country have been detected.

Has the inter-Ministry internet Censorship Committee announced by Mohamed Rahmat in the United States been disbanded and if not, what are its real functions and terms of reference

Law said the Government could not take any action on this but would instead provide correct information through the Internet. He said this was better way of countering negative information on the country.

As for pornographic, materials available over the Internet, Law said the Government would try to bar such materials it its sources were known but conceded that it was difficult for the Government to identity all pornographic materials in the Internet.

I was surprised that Datuk Mohamed Rahmat, to whom the question was originally directed at, had not answered my question but had referred it to the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment.

I welcome Law’s reply which reflects a more enlightened attitude to the Internet than the obscurantist approach of Datuk Mohamed Rahmat.

The pertinent question is whether the inter-Ministry Internet Censorship Committee which was announced by Mohamed Rahmat in the United States has now been disbanded, or whether it is still in existence, and if so, what is its real function, purpose and terms of reference!

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