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users for criticism of the monarchy in 2009,
and questioned others.
Many prosecutions were
dropped, but at least one defendant elected to pay a fine of RM10,000 ($ 2,700) rather than face
the threat of trial.
Legal proceedings can be lengthy and uncertain, regardless of the outcome.
Police continue to investigate Raja Petra Kamarudin, founder of the Malaysia Today blog, who fled
into exile in 2009 to avoid sedition charges and continues to criticize the administration from
Sedition charges against another blogger, Khairul Nizam Abdul Ghani, dating from 2010
comments about the late Sultan of Johor, were only abandoned in June 2012.
While the use of sedition laws against internet users declined in 2011,
police detained two critics
of Johor’s new Sultan on the charge in 2012. One Facebook user was arrested in November 2012
for posts considered insulting to the Sultan. When a judge declined to extend his remand after
three days, police released and immediately rearrested him; he later told journalists he was
questioned in solitary confinement for a total seven days before being released without charge.
July, police briefly detained Syed Abdullah Syed Hussein al-Attas, who blogs pseudonymously as
“Uncle Seekers,” also on allegations that 64 of his posts insulted the Sultan under the Official
Charges against him are still pending.
Politically-motivated defamation suits seeking damages disproportionate to the offense have
become another threat to online expression since a landmark 2007 blogger prosecution by a
In August 2012, a Kuala Lumpur court sentenced blogger and
opposition People’s Justice Party member Amizudin Ahmat to three months in jail for breaking a
gag order relating to Dr. Rais Yatim, Malaysia’s information and culture minister, resulting from
one such case. In 2011, Ahmat was ordered to pay MYR 300,000 ($97,000) in damages for falsely
57 International Freedom of Expression eXchange, “Government Hounds Bloggers That Criticise Royalty,” news alert,
March 25, 2009, http://www.ifex.org/malaysia/2009/03/25/government_hounds_bloggers_that/.
58 Centre for Independent Journalism, “Debate on Royal Powers Draws Attacks and Threats; Bloggers Ahiruddin Attan and Jed
Yoong Questioned by Police,” via International Freedom of Expression eXchange, March 4, 2009,
59 Centre for Independent Journalism, “Six People Charged with ‘Insulting’ Royalty Online,” International Freedom of
Expression eXchange, March 16, 2009, http://www.ifex.org/malaysia/2009/03/16/six_people_charged_with_insulting/.
60 Teh Eng Hock, “Raja Petra Can’t Be Tried in Britain,” Star Online, May 26, 2010,
K. Kabilan, “RPK: 1Malaysia Will Be
Najib’s Downfall,” Free Malaysia Today, May 25, 2010, http://politicalwatchmalaysia.blogspot.com/2010/05/rpk‐1malaysia‐
will‐be‐najibs‐downfall.html; “Perkasa Makes Police Report Against Raja Petra,” Malaysia Today, January 7, 2010,
“Malaysian Blogger Charged with Insulting Dead Sultan,” China Post, January 31, 2010,
http://www.chinapost.com.tw/asia/malaysia/2010/01/31/243065/Malaysian‐blogger.htm; Sarban Singh, “Blogger pleads not
Guilty to Insulting Johor Royals (Update),” Star Online, January 29, 2010,
62 Only one blogger was held for 24 hours in March 2011. See, “Blogger ‘Arrested’ at Midnight Under Sedition Act,” Malaysia
Today, March 19, 2011, http://malaysia‐today.net/mtcolumns/from‐around‐the‐blogs/38903‐blogger‐arrested‐at‐midnight‐
63 G. Vinod, “PAS Member: I Did Not Threaten to Kill Saiful,” Free Malaysia Today, May 19, 2010,
http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/fmt‐english/news/general/5771‐pas‐member‐i‐did‐not‐threaten‐to‐kill‐saiful; Nerea Rial,
“Malaysian Arrested Over Facebook Insults,” New Europe Online, November 5, 2012,
http://www.neurope.eu/article/malaysian‐arrested‐over‐facebook‐insults; Susan Loone, “Ahmad Subjected to Daily Grilling of
8‐9 Hours,” Malaysiakini, November 10, 2012, http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/213941.
64 Committee to Protect Journalists, “In Detaining Blogger, Malaysia Invokes Secrets Act,” news alert, July 11, 2012,
65 Soon Li Tsin, “Bloggers Sued for Defamation,” Malaysiakini, January 18, 2007, http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/62257.
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accusing the minister of criminal actions in a blog post, even though he subsequently deleted and
apologized for the content. An appeals court reduced additional costs Ahmat was required to pay
for related legal expenses but upheld the ruling, which included an order not to blog further about
When Ahmat ignored this order in eleven subsequent articles, the high court found
him in contempt; the jail term was deferred pending appeal. A suit brought by an opposition
parliamentarian was less successful. In 2012, Nga Kor Ming sought 10 million MYR ($3,200,000)
in damages over corruption allegations made by Ahmad Sofian Yahya on the blog Sekupangdua.
Though Nga withdrew the claim, the blogger countersued when articles on the politician’s website
implied the court had ruled in Nga’s favor; he, too, withdrew the suit.
Another 2012 high court ruling disappointed free expression advocates. In September 2010, police
arrested cartoonist Zulfiklee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, and seized newly-published
volumes of his cartoons—including many previously published on his blog—deemed insulting to
the prime minister and his deputy. After they released him without charge,
Zunar and his
publishing house sued the government for unlawful detention and loss of income.
In a ruling that
missed the point that satirical content should not be criminalized, a judge ruled in July 2012 that
the arrest was lawful, though confiscating the books was not.
A small number of other criminal cases have involved religion.
One in particular may contribute
to Malaysia’s global reputation for negative intervention in online freedom of expression issues: In
2012, the authorities stopped Saudi Arabian journalist Hamza Kashgari at a Malaysian airport en
route to seek asylum in New Zealand after his online comments about the Prophet Mohammed
attracted death threats and government harassment in his own country.
Although his lawyer said
he had filed a court injunction to prevent Kashgari from being deported, Malaysian authorities sent
him home, saying they did not receive it in time.
Real-name registration is not required for participation in in Malaysia’s blogosphere, nor is it
required to use a cybercafe. Civil society groups have successfully resisted tentative efforts to
implement registration, such as the 2011 Computing Professionals Bill that, if passed, would have
66 International Freedom of Expression eXchange, “Opposition Blogger Ordered to Pay Exorbitant Damages to Minister,” news
alert, July 22, 2011, http://www.ifex.org/malaysia/2011/07/22/amizudin_defamation_suit/; http://en.rsf.org/malaysia‐
67 “Blogger Sues DAP’s Nga for Defamation,” September 22, 2012, Bernama, via Malaysian Insider,
68 “Malaysian Cartoonist Goes into Hiding After Sedition Arrest,” RFI English, September 28, 2010,
69 K. Pragalath, “Partial Victory for Cartoonist Zunar,” Free Malaysia Today, July 31, 2012,
http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2012/07/31/partial‐victory‐for‐cartoonist‐zunar/; Tom Spurgeon, “CR
Holiday Interview #7: Zunar,” Comics Reporter, December 27, 2010,
70 Reporters Without Borders, “Court’s Ruling on Cartoonist’s Suit Sets Disturbing Precedent for Media Freedom,” July 31,
71 In August 2010, the right–wing group Perkasa lodged a complaint against blogger Helen Ang for authoring an article that
questioned the position of Islam in Malaysia; as of 2013, the case was still pending, but observers felt it was unlikely the
attorney general would pursue it. “Perkasa Lodges Report Against Blogger,” Malaysian Insider, August 9, 2010,
72 Committee to Protect Journalists, “Malaysia Deports Saudi Arabian Columnist,” news alert, February 13, 2012,
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required IT professionals working on Critical National Information Infrastructure
register with a government-appointed board.
Responding to critics, the Ministry of Science,
Technology, and Innovation said that registration would be voluntary, and the bill never made it to
Beginning in 2007, all mobile phone owners, including the roughly 18 million
customers using prepaid service at the time, were required to register as part of an effort to
decrease rumor mongering.
The rule appears to have been weakly enforced.
The extent of government surveillance of ICT content is not known, but privacy protections are
generally poor in Malaysia.
In 2008, the MCMC formed a panel composed of representatives
from the police, the attorney general’s office, and the Home Ministry to monitor websites and
blogs. Although it still appears to be active, it has not publicly intervened in internet freedom
issues. Court documents indicate that police regularly gain access to the content of text messages
from telecommunications companies, sometimes without judicial oversight. A 2011 government
initiative to provide free email accounts to all citizens over the age of 18 prompted fears it would
expand the government’s ability to monitor people’s online activities.
The project, which was
designed to offer an “authenticated online identity through which the people can securely carry out
their transactions with the government,” had only 23,000 subscribers by March 2013.
which allows for the interception of communications without a judicial order in poorly-defined
security investigations, also contains scope for abuse.
The Malaysian Personal Data Protection Act 2010, which regulates the processing of personal data
in commercial transactions, came into effect on January 1, 2013. The law makes it illegal for
commercial organizations to sell personal information or allow third parties to use it, with penalties
up to RM100,000 ($ 27,400) or one year imprisonment. Federal and state governments are
exempted from the law, as is data processed outside Malaysia.
In March 2013, the University of Toronto-based research group Citizen Lab reported detecting
software known as FinFisher, described by its distributor Gamma International as “governmental IT
intrusion and remote monitoring solutions,” on 36 servers worldwide, including one in Malaysia.
73 Lim Yung‐Hui, “Malaysian IT Community Response to Board of Computing Professionals Malaysia Bill 2011: Where’s the
Beef?,” Forbes, December 12, 2011, http://www.forbes.com/sites/limyunghui/2011/12/12/malaysian‐it‐community‐response‐
to‐board‐of‐computing‐professionals‐bill‐2011‐wheres‐the‐beef/; Vijandren Ramadass, “Computing Professionals Bill 2011 –
Draft,” Lowyat, December 9, 2011, http://www.lowyat.net/v2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5800&Itemid=2.
74 “MCA: Computing Professionals Bill Will Stifle Talent Growth,” New Straits Times, December 21, 2011,
75 “Dec 15 Registration Deadline Stays: MCMC,” Bernama, August 18, 2006,
76 Privacy International, “Privacy in Asia: Final Report of Scoping Project,” November 2009,
77 Rebekah Heacock, “Malaysia: Government’s Free E‐mail Plan Met with Opposition,” OpenNet Initiative (blog), April 26, 2011,
78 Economic Transformation Programme Report 2012, 187.
Mickey Spiegel, “Smoke and Mirrors: Malaysia’s “New” Internal Security Act,” Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 167, East West Center
(June 2012), http://www.eastwestcenter.org/publications/smoke‐and‐mirrors‐malaysias‐new‐internal‐security‐act.
80 Barry Ooi, “How the Personal Data Protection Act Impacts the Market Research Industry,” December 29, 2012,
81 Morgan Marquis‐Boire et al., “You Only Click Twice: FinFisher’s Global Proliferation,” Citizen Lab, March 13, 2013,
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The software potentially allows the server to steal passwords, tap Skype calls, or record audio and
video without permission from other computers, according to Citizen Lab, which noted that the
presence of such a server did not prove who was running it. The same month, the Malaysian Insider
documented Fin Fisher’s presence in Malaysia, based on a New York Times report.
In response, the
MCMC launched an investigation into the report, which it described as “speculative and ill-
researched,” and threatened the site with a fine of up to RM 50,000 ($15,200) or one year
imprisonment for false reporting under the CMA. No charges have been reported against the
website or its staff. In May, however, Citizen Lab reported they had further identified “a Malaysian
election-related document” they characterized as a “booby-trapped candidate list” containing
Because the spyware is only marketed to governments, “it is reasonable to
assume that some government actor is responsible,” the group concluded.
Physical violence, though less extreme than in many neighboring countries, still affects journalists
reporting for traditional media in Malaysia, and their online colleagues are not immune: a
Malaysiakini photojournalist was among several who reported security forces obstructing and
beating them on the sidelines of the political rally Bersih 3.0.
A graver threat to independent online news outlets and some opposition-related websites is
distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which force sites to crash by overloading the host
server with requests for content, often at moments of political importance. Some observers believe
such attacks are either sponsored or condoned by Malaysian security agencies, since they often align
with government priorities. In March 2013, the new U.K.-based online radio station Free Malaysia
Radio—which promised listeners content prohibited in traditional media—suffered DDoS attacks
during its first program, an interview with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
The online radio
portal was inaccessible for some days. Malaysiakini, which has endured 35 DDoS attacks, was one of
many sites reporting on the opposition which was subjected to an apparently coordinated assault in
April 2013 before the elections.
82 The contested report: Boo Su‐Lyn, “Malaysia Uses Spyware Against Own Citizens, NYT Reports,” Malaysian Insider, March
14, 2013, http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/Malaysia‐uses‐spyware‐against‐own‐citizens‐NYT‐reports. The
original New York Times report: Nicole Perlroth, Researchers Find 25 Countries Using Surveillance Software,” New York Times
(blog), March 13, 2013, http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/researchers‐find‐25‐countries‐using‐surveillance‐software/.
83 “Short Background: Citizen Lab Research on FinFisher Presence in Malaysia,” Citizen Lab, May 2013,
84 Committee to Protect Journalists, “Journalists Assaulted, Detained During Rally in Malaysia,” April 30, 2012,
85 “New Radio Station Under DDOS Attack, Free Malaysia Today, March 26, 2013,
86 Human Rights Watch, “Malaysia: Violence, Cyber Attacks Threaten Elections,” May 1, 2013,
http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/05/01/malaysia‐violence‐cyber‐attacks‐threaten‐elections. See also, Shawn Crispin, “Internet
Opening is Shrinking,” Attacks on the Press, Committee to Protect Journalists (Wiley: New York, February 2013),
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A civil society coalition successfully lobbied for freedom of access to the internet to be
guaranteed as a right under the Mexican constitution (see O
In 2012 and 2013, Mexico continued to be one of the most hostile environments in the
world for journalists and bloggers, who were subject to retaliatory violence from drug
cartels and organized crime (see V
A new telecommunications bill was approved by the Senate on April 30, 2013, and
offers the potential to increase ICT competition and affordability once implemented
In October 2012, two contributors to digital newspaper e-consulta were kidnapped and
robbed by Tlaxcala state police. In April 2013, retaliatory defamation cases were
leveled against five others associated with the site (see V
Evidence of widespread surveillance, including the real-time warrantless recording of
citizens’ phone calls, came to light in 2012 after secret government documents were
made public (see V
Obstacles to Access (0-25)
Limits on Content (0-35)
Violations of User Rights (0-40)
*0=most free, 100=least free
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested