Malaysia starts censoring bloggers
Today, is one that I consider, a dark day in Malaysian Internet history. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), ordered all ISPs to block access to a website, thereby violating the MSC Bill of Guarantees, which clearly states: Ensure no Internet censorship.
Malaysiakini reports (subscription required, so relevant bits pasted here):
MCMC chief operating officer Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi, when contacted today, confirmed that the block was ordered by the commission, which is the regulatory body for online content.
“It is being blocked because we found that some of the comments on the website were insensitive, bordering on incitement,” he told Malaysiakini.
Malaysiakini goes on to add, that this is the first time something like this has been used against non-pornographic websites. I will argue that this shouldn’t even be used on pornographic websites – sure it may flaunt the laws of the country, but leave it to the end-user, please.
It’s just a DNS blackhole, so its not quite Internet censorship… But this makes you feel so much closer to Beijing now, doesn’t it?
lovegood:~ byte$ dig www.malaysia-today.net @cns1.tm.net.my
; < <>> DiG 9.4.2-P1 < <>> www.malaysia-today.net @cns1.tm.net.my
;; global options: printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER< <- opcode: QUERY, status: NXDOMAIN, id: 25306
;; flags: qr aa rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 1, ADDITIONAL: 0
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;www.malaysia-today.net. IN A
;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
malaysia-today.net. 3600 IN SOA ns1.blocked. blocked.tm.net.my. 1 900 600 86400 3600
;; Query time: 17 msec
;; SERVER: 220.127.116.11#53(18.104.22.168)
;; WHEN: Wed Aug 27 23:33:57 2008
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 104
TMNet has a known list of DNS servers, the most common being: 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199. Apparently, some also get on 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206. There are a bunch more that you can get, too.
Malaysiakini goes on to report:
Mohamed Sharil said MCMC had instructed all ISPs to block access to Malaysia Today based on complaints received by the general public regarding offensive comments posted on the website.
Asked if the move to block Malaysia Today went against the government’s guarantee of Internet freedom, he said that the matter was subject to interpretation.
“We are governed by the Communications and Multimedia Act (1998) which allows us to take preventive measures and advise our license holders (such as ISPs) when a service user may be contravening national laws,” he said.
Under Section 263 of the Act, a licensee must “use his best endeavour” to prevent his/her facilities from being used to violate any law in the country”.
Mohamed Sharil said that MCMC will be communicating with the Malaysia Today owner Raja Petra Kamaruddin and other blog owners soon regarding “ethical blogging”.
“We are not against blogs, but we would like to see ethical blogging,” he stressed.
Ethical blogging. Expect yet another blog post on this, soon. In a country where mainstream media is stifled, and used as a propaganda machine, its no wonder people turn to the Internet. If the mainstream media reports “lies”, why not the Internet? The people, the rakyat are smart enough to distinguish, in this non-communist state of ours.
For the smarter ones amongst you, I suggest you stop using TMNet’s DNS services. Switch to OpenDNS (I would suggest switching ISP, but welcome to the monopoly that is Malaysia, right?). You can change it on your computer or router, or just use the nameservers if you know how: 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168. Otherwise, there are ways to change it on Windows (XP, Vista, 2000), Mac OS X (Leopard, Tiger) or even Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora).
OpenDNS is a workaround. The real problem is the MCMC attempting to censor the Internet. They are attempting to stifle free speech, and the freedom to discuss pertinent issues in an open fashion. I’ve mused about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights before, maybe its time the politicians read it, again.
Update: Its worth noting that Bernice Low wrote about this in her CNet blog as well.