PETALING JAYA: The online media and social network space is anticipated to come under more scrutiny following last month’s changes to the laws.
Centre for Independent Journalism director Sonia Randhawa said the Sedition Act had raised concerns that even online media would face greater scrutiny and the free space for discussion would be constricted.
She cited the addition of “religion” in the Act and the courts being empowered to stop someone from accessing an “electronic device” as examples of making reporting difficult.
The amendments to the Sedition Act were passed in the Dewan Rakyat on April 10.
In view of World Press Freedom Day which took place on May 3, the stakeholders were concerned about the tightening of laws.
Sonia said the Act did not address concerns over the state’s role in administrating legislation that claimed to be founded directly on religious texts.
The Act made it almost impossible for journalists to facilitate these conversations in a respectful and peaceful fashion, she said.
Penang Institute Fellow Dr Mustafa K. Anuar expressed concern that the Act would drive media practitioners to extreme self-censorship.
“Social media users will also come under intense surveillance by the authorities because the definition of ‘sedition’ itself is too vague,” he said.
University of Nottingham Malay-sia Campus media and communication studies associate dean Prof Zaharom Nain said the mainstream media was already tightly regulated through ownership and current laws.
“The net is now being cast further, or at least there is an attempt to do so, to bring online media to its knees,” he said.
He also said the amendments to the Act provided for harsher sentences – no fines but heavier prison sentences.
“In a democracy, you discuss and debate differences of opinion. You can’t talk about ‘moderation’ especially on the world stage, and then provide all these immoderate controls,” he said.
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