Saturday, April 07, 2007

The M'sian govt's blogroll and a Thai king

The govt wants "politically motivated" bloggers to register with the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications in order to "monitor" them for "malicious" viewpoints and information.

While we can debate till the cows come home [and have calves] exactly what the terms "politically motivated, monitor and malicious" mean... one thing is for certain. Malaysian laws can only be enforced within her shores. Therefore, only blogs hosted by local internet companies will be affected.

There's simply no way to enforce local laws on foreign companies not incorporated locally. That means foreign blogsites like Blogspot, Wordpress and Spaces etc. will not be affected by any new Malaysian laws drawn up to register bloggers. So what any new laws will do, is simply encourage locally hosted blogs to migrate onto foreign blogsites. That's it.

While some bloggers have pointed out this fact, they shouldn't rejoice yet.

Although foreign internet companies seem to be all gung ho about "free speech" and "no censorship",... they will oftentimes be pressured to compromise by vested interests - like govts, religious or special interest groups and big corporates - all trying to impose their individual "sensitivities & values" upon the global internet.

For instance, you must have heard by now of youtube's controversy with the Thais. While youtube seems to be holding firm... for now at least, it remains to be seen if they will capitulate like they did under the pressure of Viacom's suit over uploaded user-recorded movie clips.

"While we will not take down videos that do not violate our policies, and will not assist in implementing censorship, we have offered to educate the Thai ministry about YouTube and how it works," YouTube spokeswoman Julie Supan said.

"It's up to the Thailand government to decide whether to block specific videos, but we would rather that than have them block the entire site," she added.

Although the original clip has been removed by the user who created it, the others are similar, often showing pictures of the king next to images of feet – seen as deeply offensive in Thailand.

Four more videos have been posted to the site mocking the king, but also taking aim at Thailand's strict lese majeste law, which is rigorously enforced against anyone deemed to have offended the royal family.

The ban on YouTube has sparked a fierce debate over freedom of speech on the Internet, and on Thailand's effort to enforce a law that dates from the time of absolute monarchy more than 75 years ago in the era of a modern global media.

The ban came a week after Thailand jailed a Swiss man for 10 years for insulting the king by vandalising his portraits during a drunken spree.
Background reading on the Malaysian situation:

Bloggers to register with Energy, Water & Communications Ministry.

Information Minister backs registration of politically motivated blogs.

Deputy Minister denies censorship goal for blog registration

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