Straits Times (Used by permission)
by Evangeline Majawat
THE feisty Malaysia Today editor and blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin must be laughing with glee.
Just a few hours after the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) ordered access to Malaysia Today blocked, a mirror website was up and running.
The MCMC had moved in stealthily and quickly, like Special Branch officers on
covert missions. The decision to cut off access to the website was made on
Wednesday and by late afternoon, orders had been issued to all local Internet
service providers (ISP).
But how could the MCMC have overlooked such an obvious loophole?
The blocking of the controversial Malaysia Today site, or any other website for that matter, is almost impossible as there are many ways to circumvent the ban.
"It's like trying to contain water using a sieve. It's plain
stupid," said Juvita Wan, a producer with an advertising agency.
Any IT expert or tech–savvy blogger friend will tell you that the MCMC's move is not its wisest. The easiest way to circumvent the ban is to create a mirror website –– which was what Raja Petra did.
It's hassle–free and quick; just a few clicks of the mouse. By 7pm on Wednesay, traffic to Malaysia Today had resumed.
Another method, which is "hot among the bloggers", is the openDNS system (DNS stands for domain name service).
This user–friendly system, which was started only two years ago, allows consumers to use alternative servers to the ones provided by local ISPs.
So even if the local ISPs such as Streamyx and Time.com blocked Raja Petra's website, his supporters and any curious Tom, Dick and Harry could access his materials by doing a search with the highly efficient openDNS system.
The third way is to do a search of Malaysia Today using proxy servers.
"It's completely pointless to block his website. It's cyberspace. How can you control it?," said an exasperated IT manager, who commented under the cloak of anonymity.
MCMC's move, whether politically–motivated or not, is backfiring.
The ban raises questions of censorship and whether it was the right way to curb Raja Petra's "insensitive, bordering incitement" articles.
"We have specific laws against racial incitement. Why wasn't that invoked?" asked the IT manager.
And, of course, bloggers and watchdogs are screaming blue murder over "the impediment of freedom of speech and information".
Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar defended MCMC's actions, saying that it was just exercising its powers as provided under the Communications and Multimedia Act.
"Everyone is subject to the law, even websites and blogs," he told reporters at Parliament yesterday.
He added that the government did not have any intention to curtail freedom of expression.
"But when you publish defamatory contents, it is only natural for action to be taken."
Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor, under whose purview MCMC lies, may hold a press conference today.
He was away in Bali when the orders were issued two days ago.
His deputy, Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum, was caught embarrassingly unaware about the debacle.
"MCMC did not brief me, but they might have briefed the minister," he told reporters.
Whatever the reasons, the ministry and MCMC should perhaps look into the matter more thoroughly before hastily banning any more websites.
It not only leaves a bad image and taste among the people but puts the spotlight on the country for all the wrong reasons.