Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Government blocked access to UtusanTV.com's website?

Many had great expectations when Anwar Ibrahim became Prime Minister at last - but then his government's actions since his appointment raises too many questions. Have we been fooled? Will he be another Aung San Suu Kyi? A disappointment ...

Press Release (8 August 2023)


The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) views with concern the government's decision to block access to UtusanTV.com's website by some Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This site is a spin-off of Utusan Malaysia's lifestyle section. Another news portal, MalaysiaNow, was similarly blocked from 28-30 June. Such actions are reminiscent of censorship undertaken by Najib Razak against news portals and Bersih's own website that were critical of his government.


During that era, Pakatan Harapan (PH) was denied access to government media platforms and any reports on them by these media were skewed and unflattering. PH's election manifestos for GE14 and GE15 promised media freedom and repeal of draconian provisions in Acts that could be abused to restrict free speech such as the Sedition Act 1948, Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, and Printing Press and Publications Act 1984.


BERSIH calls on the government of PM Anwar Ibrahim to honour his pledge, as laid out in his coalition's manifestos, to defend free speech and protect media freedom. UtusanTV.com site must be unblocked immediately.

Should there be any concerns about the content of a media organisation, there should be a transparent process with a show cause letter and appeal opportunity before any blocking.

The Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) on Human Rights, Elections and Institutional Reforms should organise hearings to seek public input on the amending of the Communications and Multimedia Act to democraticise the operation of the Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), one of the many institutions born in the era of authoritarianism.


While some Malaysians may support such crackdown in the fear of 3R controversies, we like to remind both the government and all stakeholders that extremism can only be curbed with legitimate, targeted and fair measures on one hand and encouragement of healthy and constructive debates on the other. If crackdown is deemed driven by partisan calculation, the suppressed voices will only grow stronger in under-currents, posing a greater danger to inclusion and stability.


A key cornerstone of democracy is free and fair access to public media by all political parties but sadly Malaysia has never witnessed such fair play during our elections. The PH-led Unity Government continues to treat government-owned public broadcast media as their private assets and deny critical views by the Opposition from being aired.


In the last few days before polling day for the six state elections, we hope that stations like Bernama and RTM would give free airtime for all coalition leaders at state-level to talk about their manifestos, equitable media coverage and host political debates between the coalitions and parties.


In this day and age of social media accessibility, it is futile for any government to try and restrict their opponents. Instead, the Madani government should lead the way to promote open and public discourses on government-owned media so that Malaysians can judge for themselves the merits of competing views and ideologies.


Released by:

The Steering Committee of BERSIH

BERSIH Secretariat
A-2-8, 8 Avenue Business Centre,
Jalan Sungai Jernih 8/1,
46050 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
Tel. No. : +603-76280371

PM Anwar, respect of freedom of expression. If someone says something 'false', then respond in words not with defamation suits or police action?

SEDITION ACT - Repeal it. Reveal the wordings of Charge? Did reformist DAP, PKR and Amanah do a U-turn on their position?

Elections, BERSIH, Free and Fair Elections, Abuse of government resources/powers, Social Media Control?

Why is UtusanTV blocked by MCMC? And are they linked to Utusan Malaysia?

Why is UtusanTV blocked by MCMC? And are they linked to Utusan Malaysia?
Local visitors to the website are greeted with the message ‘This website is not available in Malaysia as it violates the National Law’ which is the standard template for websites blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). — SoyaCincau pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 8 — Malaysian news portal UtusanTV has been blocked in Malaysia and it is currently inaccessible on various telcos in the country. Local visitors to the website are greeted with the message “This website is not available in Malaysia as it violates the National Law” which is the standard template for websites blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

At the time of writing, we couldn’t access the site via Celcom, Maxis and Yes 5G. However, it is still accessible via a VPN connection.

Interestingly, Media Mulia Sdn Bhd which owns Utusan Malaysia, issued a statement just a few hours ago denying that it is related to UtusanTV. It says Utusan Malaysia and its newspaper publication permit are owned by Media Mulia. It added that any usage of the “Utusan” brand has caused some confusion about the ownership and it is often linked to Utusan Malaysia and Media Mulia.

It emphasised that it has no links or relationship to the content, ownership, management and operations of UtusanTV which is owned by another entity. Media Mulia said it reserves its right to defend its rights to ensure that its brand Utusan Malaysia is protected and does not cause any confusion to its readers.

According to MalaysiaKini, UtusanTV was established by former Utusan Malaysia staff after the holding company Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Berhad was shut down in 2019 due to financial troubles. According to UtusanTV’s About Us page, their portal offers current and business news and it also offers content from 6 other magazines including Mastika, Wanita, URTV, Al Islam, Saji and Hijab. UtusanTV is owned and managed by Utusan Binders Sdn Bhd. It currently has a large following on TikTok with 2.9 million followers.

Geramm (Gerakan Media Merdeka), a loose coalition of media practitioners and supporters of press freedom in Malaysia, has issued a statement on the UtusanTV blockade. They have called upon the MCMC to provide an explanation of the mechanism to block websites, especially for online news portals. This comes after a recent report that MalaysiaNow was also blocked but no official explanation was provided. Geramm stresses that censorship should not be used to block any legitimate news, articles or opinions.

The group said the MCMC should issue a notice or reminder to the affected media before a blockade is imposed. It added that the two recent blockades were imposed without notifying the editorial team of the targetted news portals that their site has been blocked and the reasons behind the action. Geramm said it is quite puzzling when MCMC instead took actions to “investigate” complaints lodged by managements of the media organisations, when there should have been a clear reason for the blocks, and there are no other authorities with the power to take such actions.

We have reached out to MCMC for further clarification. — SoyaCincau - Malay Mail,8/8/2023

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