Malaysian minister proposes blogger registration to curb malicious content

Shaziman Abu Mansor says he welcomed blogging, but that negative postings could harm national security.

A government minister has proposed that bloggers in Malaysia be required to register in an effort to control anonymous posts with malicious content, a newspaper reported Thursday. Energy, Water and Communications Deputy Minister Shaziman Abu Mansor suggested in Parliament that compulsory registration should be implemented for bloggers with sites on local servers, The Star reported. Shaziman said in the report that he welcomed blogging, but that negative postings could harm national security. The report did not say what Shaziman meant by malicious and negative content. The government uses such terms for topics including criticism of the government, and discussions on race and religion - sensitive matters in the multi-ethnic, Muslim-majority country. A ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to policy, confirmed Shaziman's remarks. Shaziman could not immediately be reached Thursday for comment on the report. Separately, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said bloggers have made the "business of government more challenging" and in some instances, caused unnecessary distraction. "Some merely inform, others argue a point of view, and a few simply distort and sensationalize," Najib said in a speech to Malaysia's top diplomats. "There is now more competition for readership, viewership, eyeball, revenues, profits and yes, even infamy." The proposal comes as two Malaysian journalists are fighting a defamation suit, filed by the government-linked New Straits Times newspaper, for allegedly posting libelous remarks in their blogs about the paper's editors and executives. The defamation suit against Jeff Ooi and Ahirudin Attan is the first time anyone in the country has sued bloggers for their posts. While political parties and the government control much of the country's traditional media, many of Malaysia's most popular blogs offer political commentaries that include criticism of government policies. Ooi criticized Shaziman's registration proposal. "A move like that would go against a trend around the world. It would stifle the development of local content," he told The Associated Press. Opposition Democratic Action Party leader Lim Kit Siang said Shaziman's proposal showed that the government was becoming increasingly anti-information technology. "I think this is the wrong approach altogether," Lim told the AP. "Instead of coming up with ways to inhibit blogging, these ministers should be educated to start blogging themselves to invite a more interactive, communicative style of government."