Elections in Malaysia are just around the corner. And many independent, online media outlets have voiced fears that the government will try to censor them, just like it has in the past. Since these online media outlets are known for independent reporting, it is understandable that the government is worried about them.
Back in the 2008 elections, the Malaysian government apparently wiped off many online media outlets, so that they may not report incidents of government-sponsored rigging. The government, naturally, denies any such allegations and states that it has never indulged in censorship tactics.
According to the CEO of an online Malaysian media outlet, Malaysiakini, “During the 2008 election we were wiped off the Internet. Our concern is that we’ll see a repeat of that on May 5. Can we really live without independent media on election night, given that both sides might not accept the result?”
The Malaysian government has long made the claim that it offers freedom of speech and avoid any forms of online censorship. The government has banked on this claim to invite foreign technology investors to come to the country. That is precisely why, a number of online independent media websites have been able to emerge over the recent years.
In the past, the government has tried to coerce Malaysiakini personnel by refusing them access to press conferences, raiding their facilities and branding them as foreign agents. But now, it seems that the government has more convenient tools. Last year during elections, a huge-scale DDoS attack was launched to knock the website offline. This year, the risk is even greater.
Cyber attacks directed at online independent media sites are fast becoming a norm in Malaysia. Some of these attacks are perpetuated by the government, in collaboration with the telecom companies. But then, the government vehemently denies its involvement.
According to a government spokesperson, “Malaysia has a free, open and robust online media environment. The government does not censor the internet and welcomes constructive criticism as part of the democratic process. We deny any involvement in cyber-attacks. The government does not condone attacks against the media in any form.”
But the big question is, who else would want to use unlimited resources to take down online news site every other week, if not the very government who is criticized on these sites?