Yesterday, the Home Ministry announced that the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) - the mother of all censorship laws -would be amended to cover online content. Its secretary-general Mahmood Adam said the changes will plug loopholes in the law.
Mahmood (left) said the ministry was working with the Attorney-General's Chambers to study the proposed amendments.
"We hope the amendments will be tabled in Parliament by March, because we need to overcome weaknesses, especially those involving multimedia content," he said.
"We have to expand the Act so that it does not only cover the print media, because the landscape is totally different now, especially with the intrusion of digital technology," he said.
It is expected that online news websites, as with the traditional media, will required to apply for government-issued publication licences
Since his retirement in 2003, Mahathir has himself turned blogger.
Free of censorship, the online media went on to lay the foundations for the 'political tsunami' in 2008, resulting in then prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi conceding that the government had “lost the Internet war”.
While the traditional media and online media are both kept in check by some 35 laws which restrict freedom of expression in Malaysia, there is one crucial difference between the two.
The online media, unlike its print and broadcast cousins, does not need government approval to put out the news or to go back to the Home Ministry each year to renew the publishing and printing permits. It is this which keeps editors and journalists in the traditional media on a short leash.
It is likely that, should the proposed amendments become law, the online media too will be required to apply for a licence.
This will be the final nail in the coffin for press freedom. The little freedom of expression that Malaysians have enjoyed online over the past 16 years will end.
The licensing regime will enable the government to apply political pressure to the online media, and worse, allow the all-powerful home minister to declare news websites illegal. Don't forget that under the PPPA, the minister's decision cannot be challenged in court.
This is why Najib is worse than Mahathir when it comes to media operations.
Instead of freeing up the traditional media by doing away with the licensing regime under the PPPA, Najib and his cousin, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, are taking the regressive step of controlling the online media.
The timing and the speed of the amendment - it is expected to be tabled in Parliament by March - shows that the government has the upcoming general election in mind.
However, in a move to do damage control, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters yesterday that discussions on the amendment were still in the "very early" stage.
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Liew Vui Keong said today that here is no indication that any amendment will be made to the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) during the March sitting of Parliament.
Asked whether he was aware of any plan to table amendments to this law during the coming sitting, the de facto deputy minister of law and parliamentary affairs said: "Not at the moment."
So who is lying?? Find out here!
Whatever it is the move to amend the PPPA to include the online media must be defeated. Otherwise, Malaysia will return to the bad old days when the government had complete monopoly on truth.