Malaysian minister says no to Internet censorship

Malaysia has continued to stake its claim to leadership in the Asian information economy, with a speech from a top telecommunications official reiterating his government's commitment to keeping Malaysia free from regulations regarding who says what on the Internet.

Malaysia has continued to stake its claim to leadership in the Asian information economy, with a speech from a top telecommunications official reiterating his government's commitment to keeping Malaysia free from regulations regarding who says what on the Internet.

"There is no way that we can block the content that goes through the Internet," Datuk Leo Moggie, the head of the Ministry of Energy, Telecommunications and Posts, said in a keynote address at the annual conference of the Internet Society (INET). "Instead of blocking [the Internet], we have to adjust how to react to it over time."

Over the past year, the Malaysian government has heavily promoted itself as a fertile field for the growth of Information Age technologies, laws and policies.

The country's parliament cultivated that image recently with the passage of several "cyberlaws," covering areas such as digital signatures and telemedicine, that government officials hope will combine with a relaxed attitude toward Internet content to spur the growth of Malaysia's multimedia-related industries.

That attitude sets Malaysia apart from several neighboring countries that have used a heavier hand to stanch the free flow of Internet content that they deem threatening or inappropriate.

Moggie said that through its effort to build a Multimedia Super Corridor stretching out from this capital city, Malaysia is providing "a gift to the world" for testing innovative laws and the use of technology for improving society.

But with only two Internet access providers currently authorised by the government, Malaysia is no radical proponent of free-market forces. Moggie defended the government's tight controls on the provision of access, saying that without such a restriction on quantity, the quality of Internet service could degenerate.

Pointing to a long-term Malaysian policy that mixes private-sector activities with government direction and incentives, Moggie said care must be taken to avoid potentially negative impacts on Malaysian culture, especially in rural villages.

But after 10 years of the Internet in Malaysia, Moggie said, "it is safe to say that the word 'Internet' is no longer a foreign word to many Malaysians."

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