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Government plans to force bloggers to register

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced concern about a 4 April 2007 statement by Deputy Minister of Energy, Water and Communications Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor, that in order to prevent the spread of "negative or malicious content," bloggers will soon have to register with the government. While claiming it does not intend to censor bloggers, the government has warned that bloggers are not above the law when they "disturb peace and harmony" in Malaysia.

"This measure could jeopardise online free expression," Reporters Without Borders said. "It could push many bloggers to opt for anonymity or censor themselves out of fear of reprisals. The deputy minister's statement once again demonstrates the government's desire to exercise improper control over the online flow of information inside Malaysia. The obligatory registering of blogs is a measure that so far has only been adopted by countries such as China that violate Internet users' rights."

The political parties and the government control most of the media in Malaysia. The most popular blogs serve as a counter-weight, offering political comment that is often critical of the government. Science and Technology Minister Kong Cho Ha said on 4 December 2006 that he wanted to "create strict laws to control abuses on the Internet" and to dissuade "bloggers from advocating disorder and chaos in society."

On 19 January 2007, Reporters Without Borders took up the cause of two Malaysian bloggers who are the target of libel suits by members of the staff of the "New Straits Times", a Malaysian newspaper. Jeff Ooi, who writes one of the country's most popular blogs, Screenshots ( ), has been sued for refusing to take down 13 posts which the newspaper's staffers consider to be defamatory (see IFEX alerts of 1 February and 19 January 2007).

Ahiruddin Attan, who produces a blog called Rockybru ( ), says he is being sued over a post in which he accused some of the newspaper's journalists of being agents of the Singaporean government (see alerts of 1 February and 19 January 2007).

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