Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sarawak Report Website Access Blocked? How? Why? Court Order? Government Decision?

Sarawak Report website access have allegedly been blocked by Malaysia on the grounds that it has violated the laws of Malaysia, and this raises questions.[This has been also alleged in many other news media sites]

Was it blocked pursuant to a court order - an interim injunction maybe? Or is it simply based on the decision of the government or the Minister or the Commission?

'As it has violates...Malaysian law' - it is most dangerous if the power to deny access is a decision JUST of the Commission, Minister or the Government. Such a decision should really be made by the Courts - whereby the affected party, in this case the owners of the Sarawak Report website should also have a right to be heard.

If it is just the police, the Commission, the Minister or Prime Minister Najib's decision, then is it not the same as the former ISA or the 'Detention Without Trial' laws. 

In my opinion, there should have been an application to court - whereby it is the judge that decides after hearing both parties. Remember the presumption of innocence until proven guilty....

I visited the Sawarak Report to confirm this, and I saw the following notice(see below):-

It seems that it was Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission that did this - but by virtue of what power...what Order and date is missing. Was it gazetted? Was it a court order? (The relevant sections found in this Order has been copied and pasted below by me for your consideration) - and WHY? (well, we will discuss this below)

Sarawak Report Website - blocked, and you see the following notice:-

Akses kepada laman sesawang ini dihalang di bawah Seksyen 263(2) Akta Komunikasi Dan  Multimedia 1998 kerana melanggar undang-undang Malaysia di bawah:
Access to this site has been denied under Section 263(2) Communications And Multimedia Act 1998 as it violates the following Malaysian law: 


Communications and Multimedia Act 1998

Breached provision section 211/233 Communication and Multimedia Act 1998

Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission

There is no reference to the section in the law that gives the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission the power to block access to a website whilst 'investigation is being done'....or after a charge has been filed in court. Even, in such cases, does the power to block access lie with the Commission or with the Minister or with the Government? 

Looking at the powers and functions of the Commission in section 16, I see no clearly stated power for the Commission to block access to any website - but there is section '16(1)( (j) to carry out any function under any written law as may be prescribed by the Minister by notification published in the Gazette.' > so was there such powers to block access to websites, if so when was this gazetted? 

Maybe, the Minister's power came by way of a 'Direction'(s.7)

(1) The Minister may, from time to time, issue directions to the Commission on the exercise of the Commission's powers and the performance of the Commission's functions and duties under this Act, whether of a general character or otherwise.
(2) Any Ministerial direction shall be consistent with the objects and provisions of this Act which are relevant to the particular matter or activity.
OR maybe it was a 'Determination'..(s.10).

(1) The Minister may, from time to time, determine any matter specified in this Act as being subject to Ministerial determination, without consultation with licensees or persons.
(2) Any determination shall be consistent with the objects and provisions of this Act which are relevant to the particular matter or activity.
In short, the notification on the Sarawak Report website lacks clarity as to where the Commission gets the power to block access to the website - we certainly do not want Malaysia to be breaking its own law, would we now?


Now, looking at the laws mentioned that were allegedly violated - section 211/233 > there is already an uncertainty as to whether it was section 211/233 > and no mention whatsoever of the facts alleged that shows that one of the sections have been violated. In any event, both is about ...'content which is indecent, obscene, false, menacing, or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person..'

So which was it? indecent? obscene? false? menacing? or offensive?

So was it with the intent to ...annoy? abuse? threaten? or harass?

...Any person... so who is this person? Our Prime Minister Najib?

I believe that it is still under investigation .... In any event, this law is way too WIDE and can easily be abused... it should be amended/repealed - it should be limited and made very specific..

Remember also that individual persons always have the Courts...whether in Malaysia (and also in the UK)...and there even before the case is tried, there will be the possibility of applying for 'interim injunctions' - which can 'gag' a website from publishing on the relevant matter. Hence, there is no reason why the Commission, Minister or the Government should step in for after this section 211/213 is about matters done to a person/s.

This law is just too wide - and, it really can be used against any online media websites, bloggers and other websites... The freedom of expression and opinion is violated by the existence of such laws...

Remember that Media (and even blogs and websites) has an obligation to publish not just facts and perceived facts - but also expressions and opinions.  

Is it right to deny complete access to the Sarawak Reporter website - or should have these access only be denied to those reports concerning 1MDB or the relevant matter under investigations?  

Remember that we in Malaysia and the world are all against crime, corruption, abuse of public funds and power, against human rights violations, injustices - and it is now a DUTY to highlight matters related to this, a right and duty affirmed by even the United Nations.

What? Just report to the relevant authorities - well, I did write a long letter alleging wrongs to my local authority - and to date there has been no letter of reply. So, to say we are just to bring 'attention to the relevant authorities', when in many cases nothing happens. I have also, with others, written letters to our Prime Minister Najib on many issues of human rights - but alas, most of the time not even a reply acknowledging receipt, let alone an assurance that it will be looked into... This must all change... 

Sarawak Report whistleblowing website blocked by Malaysia after PM allegations

London-based site run by Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law censored over claims cash from a state fund ended up in Malaysian prime minister’s bank account
Clare Rewcastle Brown
The Sarawak Report was founded by Clare Rewcastle Brown, pictured, and is based in London. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Malaysia has blocked access to a whistleblowing website run by a British journalist which has reported allegations that money linked to a state investment fund ended up in Prime Minister Najib Razak’s bank accounts.

The Sarawak Report, founded by Clare Rewcastle Brown and based in London, has in recent months reported extensively on a series of sensational bribery and financial mismanagement allegations linked to Najib and the fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)

Rewcastle Brown, who is married to former British prime minister Gordon Brown’s younger brother, set up Sarawak Report in 2010, and most of its reporting has focused on deforestation in the Malaysian part of Borneo – including the state of Sarawak – and corruption.

The move to block Sarawak Report came two weeks after the website first reported on how investigators probing the debt-laden 1MDB discovered that some US$700m allegedly made its way into Najib’s personal bank accounts.

The Wall Street Journal reported a similar story, citing official documents. Najib, facing mounting calls to resign, has denied receiving money for his personal use.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the country’s internet regulator, confirmed late on Sunday it had blocked Sarawak Report for reporting on what it called “unverified content”.

“Such content could create unrest and threatens national stability, public order and economic stability,” the commission said in a statement.

It said the website would be blocked until an official investigation into 1MDB is completed. No time frame has been given for the investigation.

Sarawak Report continues to be accessible from outside Malaysia, however.

Responding to the decision, Rewcastle Brown – who was denied entry into Malaysia in 2013 – said it was “a blatant attempt to censor” Sarawak Report’s exposure on corruption in Malaysia, ruled by the long-dominant National Front coalition since gaining independence from Britain in 1957.

“This latest blow to media freedom only brings further discredit upon the present administration, who have proven unable to counter the evidence we have presented in any other way,” she said in a statement sent to the Guardian.

She said the move showed Malaysian authorities were fearful of being exposed, and vowed not to be silenced.

“Sarawak Report will not be impeded in any way by this action in bringing out future information as and when its investigations deliver further evidence.”

The decision to block the site has also sparked condemnation from Malaysians, who said the government has gone back on a promise not to censor the internet.

Malaysia pledged not to restrict the internet when it set up the “Multimedia Super Corridor”, Malaysia’s answer to Silicon Valley, in the 1990s in a bid to attract foreign investors.

“Imposing stricter internet controls over what a user can post and read will severely restrict the freedoms of expression and the right to information, ” Shamini Darshni, Amnesty International Malaysia executive director said.

The internet regulator has previously threatened Malaysians with jail for spreading parodies or false news through social networking sites over the latest allegations against Najib. - The Guardian, 28/7/2015


 6  Interpretation
 "licensee" means a person who either holds an individual licence, or undertakes activities which are subject to a class licence, granted under this Act;

263  General duty of licensees

(1) A licensee shall use his best endeavour to network that he owns or prevent the facilities provides or the network service , applications service or content applications service that he provides from being used in, or in relation to, the commission of any offence under any law of Malaysia.

(2) A licensee shall, upon written request by the Commission or any other authority, assist the Commission or other authority as far as reasonably necessary in preventing the commission or attempted commission of an offence under any written law of Malaysia or otherwise in enforcing the laws of Malaysia, including, but not limited to, the protection of the public revenue and preservation of national security.

211  Prohibition on provision of offensive content

(1) No content applications service provider, or other person using a content applications service, shall provide content which is indecent, obscene, false, menacing, or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person.

(2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both and shall also be liable to a further fine of one thousand ringgit for every day or part of a day during which the offence is continued after conviction.

233  Improper use of network facilities or network service, etc.

(1) A person who-
(a) by means of any network facilities or network service or applications service knowingly-
(ii) initiates the transmission of,
any comment, request, suggestion or other communication which is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person; or

(b) initiates a communication using any applications service, whether continuously, repeatedly or otherwise, during which communication may or may not ensue, with or without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person at any number or electronic address,
commits an offence.

(2) A person who knowingly-
(a) by means of a network service or applications service provides any obscene communication for commercial purposes to any person; or
(b) permits a network service or applications service under the person's control to be used for an activity described in paragraph (a),
commits an offence.

(3) A person who commits an offence under this section shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both and shall also be liable to a further fine of one thousand ringgit for every day during which the offence is continued after conviction.

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