Thursday, July 21, 2011

Censuring censorship

The Barisan Nasional government has confirmed that they are really dinosaurs living in the Dark Ages by blacking out parts of an article in the Economist magazine (July 16 edition) about the Bersih 2.0 rally.

In this digital age when information flows so freely on the Internet that even authoritarian governments in China and Myanmar have found it hard to curb the flow of online news and views, the Malaysian government has sadly made itself look comical and outdated.

Those in power in the Malaysian Home Ministry should ask themselves these questions:

1) Who reads the Economist?

The Economist is an upmarket magazine in English that is aimed at the intelligentsia. Would the fisherman, farmer, small-holder, Felda settler or trader (otherwise known as the rural voters) read the Economist? Or do they read Utusan Malaysia or Berita Harian or Harian Metro or Kosmo or the vernacular newspapers/magazines?

Surely the Economist would be too upmarket for them. How many of these rural folks are fluent  in English anyway?

2) Would the reader of the Economist in Malaysia have access to the Internet?

The Economist readers in Malaysia are the urban English-educated elite. They are mostly  degree-holders with high-paying jobs. They are the professionals in the corporate sector. They are the movers and shakers of the economy. They are also political leaders. They have access to the Internet in the office, at home and on the move.

3) If parts of an Economist story are blacked out would Malaysian readers just make a few clicks and go to the Economist's website to read the same story in full?

Of course they would. I did.

4) Can the Home Ministry censor the same story on the Internet?

You gotta be kidding.

So the action by the Home Ministry is counter-productive as it would actually encourage the reader of the Economist to read the web version to find out what was censored.

BTW, only a few thousand copies of the Economist are sold in Malaysia which is peanuts compared to the local newspapers (mostly controlled by Barisan component parties) and magazines that sell by the hundreds of thousands.

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