During elections, an informed citizen is the most powerful actor. In countries where the media is controlled by governments, the internet is often the most important source of information, and state authorities have many incentives to filter, throttle, or block the internet.
That’s what’s happening in Malaysia right now. On Sunday, Malaysians will vote in their 13th election since independence. But since the election was announced last month, news sites have been taken offline by massive cyber attacks, and local internet service providers are selectively blocking access to key news and opposition sites that report what the mainstream media do not.
We’re seeing this trend around the globe: Announce elections. Begin cyber attacks. Keep citizens in the dark.
But, the good news: Malaysia is one of the only countries in the world where a free and open internet is mandated by law, and the country’s independent Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has intervened before to stop political interference with the internet.
An elected government is accountable to its people and has to do everything possible to ensure the free flow of information, especially during elections. Governments have an obligation to keep networks open and free.
Malaysia’s popular independent online news site, Malaysiakini, is one of the sites that has been targeted with attacks during the last few weeks. Its CEO and co-founder said:
"Our biggest fear is that access to Malaysiakini will be blocked on Sunday night. The authorities need to understand that once accurate information is cut off, rumours will take over, and the situation can become untenable. With updated reports from the online media as well as traditional media, voters are more likely to keep calm and will not believe provocative rumours."
We believe that access to the Internet is an emerging human right–and we stand up for people everywhere whose access is threatened. We need your help to send a global message to the Commission that we are in solidarity with the internet and the Malaysian people.
For an open internet,
The Access Team