Deputy Information Minister’s threat to ban foreign publications most unwarranted and highlights the need for a shake-up of the Information Ministry to make it more in tune with the challenges of an Information Age


by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Monday, November 6, 1995:

Deputy Information Minister’s threat to ban foreign publications most unwarranted and highlights the need for a shake-up of the Information Ministry to make it more in tune with the challenges of an Information Age

The Deputy Information Minister, Datuk Suleiman Mohamed said yesterday that the Information Ministry would recommend the banning of any foreign publication which persists in painting a false picture of the country.

He said his ministry was studying such articles published by various foreign publications and would submit its recommendations to the Home Ministry.

Suleiman was referring in particular to reports in the foreign publications about a rift between the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed and the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

It would appear that top information Ministry officials, whether the Information Minister or Deputy Minister, has only one reflex to articles or things they don’t like – to ban or to censor them.

In September, the Information Minister Datuk Mohamed Rahmat went on such a spree when he repeatedly issued stern warnings about censorship of the Internet because “some students abroad are spreading disinformation on Malaysia through the internet” and cyberporn.

Mohamed Rahmat even announced an Inter-Ministry Committee to impose censorship of the Internet, although nothing has been heard of such a Committee since then.

Is the Information minister going to propose another Inter-Ministry Censorship Committee to censor foreign publications which publish reports regarded as “adverse and untrue stories meant to jeopardize our economic growth and political stability?”

If Malaysia’s economic growth and political stability could be so easily undermined, then they must be very fragile and could not have very strong fundamentals as repeatedly proclaimed in national and international forums by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.

Even if the Information Ministry has its way to ban foreign publications which publishes reports about the Mahathir-Anwar relationship of the power tussle between their two factions, what would the information Ministry propose if these reports are subsequent posted on the Internet and accessible by Malaysian netters?

Would the Information Ministry then come back with the proposal that Malaysia should ban the Internet and turn its back to the information Superhighway?

It is clear that the deputy Information Minister’s threat to ban foreign publications is not only most unwarranted but highlights the need for a shake-up of the Information Ministry to make it more in tune with the challenges of an Information Age.

If the foreign reports are so damaging to Malaysia, and a study has to be made, why is the Home Ministry not conducting the study instead of the Information Ministry?

In any event, what action does the Information Ministry propose the government should take against UMNO leaders and members who speak to the foreign journalists who write these articles in foreign publications?

I note that the new Sunday Times Columnist a Kadir Jasin yesterday had devoted his column specifically to UMNO leaders and members who “give regular briefing to foreign correspondents” to have the courage to deny statements allegedly made by them n the foreign media.

Kadir Jasin pointedly advised these UMNO leaders and members that “before they do that…they should make sure thay really did not speak to the magazine, whether it is immediately before the publication of a report of three months earlier.”

Will the Information Ministry, for instance, propose to the Home Ministry to ban all UMNO leaders and members from speaking to foreign correspondents?

The deputy Information Minister is probably more interested in gaining political mileage in the present UMNO election frenzy by making his statement – but he should realise that it is precisely such half-baked statements which does no good for Malaysia’s international image as an open, liberal and democratic society.

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