As Malaysia neared its 13th general elections, scheduled for 2012, there was more active public articulation of views on the government and challenging of long standing political assumptions, most pertinently on national identity in the multi-racial state. The year also saw the country’s first journalist death in the line of duty when Noramfaizul Mohd Nor from the national news agency broadcasting arm, Bernama TV was killed in Somalia in a case of mistaken targeting on 3 September (see box).
The year 2011 was marked by the increased frequency and intensity of politicized debates on race and religion as well as public use of online space to criticize and mock the government. These developments were made more significant by street protests including the iconic Bersih 2.0 on 9 July – a rally by thousands of people of diverse race and affiliation, demanding free and fair elections despite a brutal police crackdown.
There was also strong popular opposition to government attempts at Internet censorship. The Prime Minister pledged to do away with two draconian emergency laws and promised reforms in the area of media, freedom of assembly and detention without trial. But government actions remained questionable and caused concern.
Siege on freedom of assembly
The government clampdown on freedom of assembly with extensive roadblocks, use of water cannons and tear gas, beatings and mass arrests of assembly participants, eclipsed the Prime Minister’s feel-good initiatives based on his “1Malaysia” concept. The irony was that, after promising more civil liberties in the aftermath of the brutal crackdown on the Bersih 2.0 rally for electoral reforms, a new law banning street protest was introduced with Prime Minister Najib himself hailing it as a reform milestone.
In February, police arrested 109 protesters and mounted roadblocks in the capital op9city Kuala Lumpur in a clampdown on a rally by Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf). The group was protesting that a novel taught in secondary school Malay-language literature, Interlok, contained racist depiction of ethnic Indians.
In June, as part of the crackdown on Bersih 2.0, police detained 80 people who were distributing political pamphlets and wearing T-shirts promoting the planned rally as they traveled to publicity events in various towns. Some were later released, but police remanded 30 activists from the Socialist Party of Malaysia in northern Penang state. Of these, 24 were charged for possessing documents related to illegal assembly while the remaining six, including parliamentarian Dr Michael Jeyakumar, were accused of involvement in a communist plot and detained under the Emergency Ordinance. They were held in detention till late October, more than three months after the rally itself on 9 July.
On that day, in a widely condemned operation, police arrested 1,667 people. In one of the most controversial actions during the crackdown, police chased protesters with water cannons to a hospital area and barged into the building to arrest those taking shelter from the chemical-laced water and tear gas. The event produced a social media heroine in 65-year-old retired English teacher Annie Ooi Siew Lan who was photographed drenched in chemical water and reported to have faced tear gas four times during the march. While traditional local media coverage discredited the Bersih 2.0 and its organizers, and gave muted coverage of the rally’s eight demands, foreign and online news outlets as well as social media, provided live reportage of the rally and actively discussed it later. To their credit, social media users exposed with multiple videos, police encroachment on the hospital, which was corroborated by a signed statement from the doctors after initial police denial.
The mainstream Malay language newspaper, Utusan Malaysia described the rally, attended by an estimated 30,000-50,000 people, as a Jewish plot to overthrow the government. The Prime Minister criticized the rally for disrupting traffic and closing businesses. An estimated 11,000 police personnel were deployed to break up Bersih 2.0 and the government harassed journalists including Joseph Sipalan of Malaysiakini.com along with Fazallah Pit, Yusriah Yusof and Ahmad Fadli Mohd Nazari of Suara Keadilan for their reporting of the event. Authorities also blacked out several words and phrases in an article about the rally in the 16 July print version of the Economist.
Challenging power symbols and history
Before the dust had settled on Bersih 2.0, a controversy on the lack of academic freedom, hit the headlines. The spark of it was a controversial raid in August on a Methodist church on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur on suspicion of converting Muslims to Christianity.
When outspoken law lecturer at the International Islamic University Malaysia, Professor Abdul Aziz Bari commented that it was unusual for the state monarch to come to the defence of Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIS), which conducted the raid, he was suspended by the university and subsequently resigned under pressure. University students, in large numbers, protested the university’s action against Abdul Aziz who was criticized by the Malay language media and even received a death threat. Abdul Aziz maintains his criticism was well within the legal framework and even the archaic Sedition Act under which he is being investigated.
Inflammatory language, legal threats or actions have prevented rational discussion on race, religion and the monarchy. Ironically, it is non-state actors in the form of sectarian groups, most notably Perkasa, which have shaped the debates this way. They were frequently given coverage by government-linked media such as Utusan Malaysia. In May, the daily published a front-page report based on unverified blog postings alleging a plot involving politicians from the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) to turn the country into a state ruled by Christians. Perkasa responded immediately with a battle cry against Christians and DAP.
Journalists’ union in the spotlight
The suspension of National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Mohd Hata Wahari in January by his employer, Utusan Malaysia owned by the main ruling party UMNO, was testimony to the extent of state media control. Mohd Hata was elected NUJ president in September 2010 with a big majority on the platform of pushing for the repeal of the draconian Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA). He spoke out against the law and UMNO, the largest member of the ruling coalition, when the party banned eight online media journalists from covering its annual assembly that year. After three months of internal investigation, the newspaper sacked him on charges of tarnishing its reputation after he criticized its blatantly pro-UMNO editorial policy and blamed it for falling readership in 2010.
The episode revived calls to the public to boycott traditional media. Lim Sue Goan, a senior editor in a widely read Chinese language newspaper, acknowledged the sorry state of Malaysian media in his May column published in the Sin Chew Daily.
“The Los Angeles Times won the Pulitzer Prize gold medal for public service this year for revealing official corruption in Bell. In Malaysia, instead of corruption revealing reports, award-winning reports are general news. Who is responsible for such a situation?”
The year saw several instances of the press and publication law being used to intimidate the media. In August, English daily The Star was issued a show-cause letter and made to apologize twice on the front page for publishing a picture of a non-halal dish in its supplementary on halal eateries during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The Star suspended supplementary editor Johnni Wong over the incident.
In December, the Home Ministry which regulates the print media, issued a show-cause letter to Chinese language dailyNanyang Siang Pau for publishing an image that included the word “Allah” in calligraphy as the graphics for a feature story on the Hudud issue (Islamic criminal law). The Ministry said the newspaper had “clearly” alarmed public opinion and jeopardised public interest.
Prime Minister Mohd Najib Razak announced on 16 September that the government would review media censorship laws and suggested that annual re-application for permits would be done away with. But as the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) pointed out, the measure scarcely reduced the Home Ministry’s vast power of controlling the right to publish and disseminate information.
Battle for Internet freedom
Early in the year, the Home Ministry announced it would issue guidelines on “online sedition”, which would include an amendment to the definition of “publication” in the PPPA to include Internet content, blogs or Facebook, in order to bring the law in line with the changing digital media landscape.
The amendments were to be tabled in March 2011 in Parliament, but the government backed down after protests from online news media, opposition members and the NUJ.
However, in December, the government proposed a law requiring registration and certification of IT professionals. According to the bill’s drafter, the Science and Technology Ministry, the proposed Computing Profession Bill sought to establish a board for IT practitioners and companies, where one of the purposes is safeguarding the country’s “Critical National Information Infrastructures” (CNII).
This time, critics came overwhelmingly from the IT industry who pointed out that vague definitions of key terms, such as CNII, “Computing” and “Computing Practitioners” gave immense power to the board to censure and monitor their activities. On 13 December, less than a week the draft bill was publicized, the Ministry said the proposed law might be dropped.
While new laws to regulate the Internet were held off, existing laws were being used to restrict freedom of online expression or to online censor media content with political undertones.
In October, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) questioned online news portalMalaysiakini.com for reporting the incident about law professor Abdul Aziz Bari over his comment on the role of the monarchy.
In September, MCMC ordered broadcasters not to air a music video calling on Malaysians to vote in the general elections. The video was produced by a local musician who made it available online. It featured many local celebrities as well as parliamentarian Tengku Razaleigh, a vocal critic of UMNO, saying that the country “has many problems”. The MCMC said its directive was in accordance with the regulation requiring videos to go through the censorship process before being aired.
In another instance, a blogger had to pay RM300,000 (USD98,650) in damages to a minister after being found guilty of defaming the latter with the title of his post. However, the content of the blog was a news story published in the opposition newspaper alleging that the minister had raped his maid.
In March, the MCMC dropped the case against blogger Irwan Abdul Rahman accused of spreading false news in his satirical post “TNB to Sue WWF over Earth Hour” published in 2010. TNB refers to the national electricity corporation.
Also in March, MCMC officers arrested blogger Mohd Nur Hanief Abdul Jalil without a warrant under the Sedition Act. The blogger had alleged a sexual relationship between a member of the royalty and a celebrity model. Mohd Nur’s house was raided around midnight and his computers were confiscated.
Earlier, in February, opposition parliamentarian Shuhaimi Shafiei was charged under the Sedition Act for a blog post questioning the Sultan’s appointment of a candidate opposed by the Selangor state government as state secretary. He has pleaded not guilty.
Malaysia’s ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, its leaders and mainstream Malay media remained hostile to the online community, both social media users and independent online media. UMNO Senator Ezam Mohd Nor threatened to “burn”Malaysiakini.com and The Malaysian Insider for their coverage of a controversial raid of a church by the Selangor Islamic department, while Utusan Malaysia accused Malaysiakini.com and Professor Abdul Aziz Bari of inciting disaffection towards the monarchy which is a criminal offence.
However, the burgeoning online user community, particularly social media such as Facebook, has created a distinct group able to articulate its disaffection. Attempts by the Prime Minister to woo them, for example, by announcing in April a “1Malaysia Email Project” to provide Malaysians with free email accounts, quickly backfired. Thousands joined a Facebook page to oppose the project and many criticized it online as a waste of public funds. Likewise, more than 150,000 people joined a Facebook page to mock the Tourism Ministry’s spending of RM1.8 million (USD590,000) for its social media marketing campaign, of which an estimated RM100,000 (USD32,900) were spent each to develop two Facebook pages.
While the government repealed the Restricted Residence Act and the Banishment Act, it shocked civil society with the passage of the Peaceful Assembly Law in November. The law effectively outlaws street assemblies, lists areas prohibited for assembly, requires an advance notice of 30 days in lieu of a permit for holding an assembly, allows police to impose conditions such as date, time and duration of assembly, forbids participants under the age of 21 and imposes hefty fines for breach of conditions.
The arrest of 13 people without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in November contrasted sharply with the Prime Minister’s statement about repealing the law. As with previous ISA arrests, the detained people faced terrorism charges with little information released about them and their arrest.
Landmark court decisions
The year, however, saw encouraging developments in the form of High Court decisions related to freedom of expression. In both cases of defamation, the respondent was the Malay language newspaper, Utusan Malaysia. In the first case brought by the Penang state leader from the opposition Democratic Action Party, the court ruled that the newspaper had failed to verify information as part of journalistic rigour. In the second case involving Selangor state assemblyman Khalid Samad from the Islamic party, the court ruled that it had published content with malicious intent when it published a story from a blog post without checking the contents and its sensitivity.
In another landmark decision, a High Court ruled in favor of four National University of Malaysia students – Muhammad Hilman Idham, Woon King Chai, Muhammad Ismail Aminuddin and Azlin Shafina Mohamad Adza – who challenged the constitutional validity of the university’s disciplinary action against them for taking part in a by-election campaign in 2010. The decision effectively makes unconstitutional, provisions in the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) that prohibit undergraduates from participating in political activity.
Although UUCA reform was part of the Prime Minister’s September announcement, university students continued to be threatened with suspension and arrests for joining street protests. Adam Adli Abdul Halim, a student, was suspended for defending academic freedom, and 20 other students who protested in his support were arrested and manhandled.
Malaysia’s 13th general election this year follows the acquittal of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges and the massive Bersih 2.0 rally for free and fair polls.
The incumbent government will also be tested on its reform pledges though there is little to indicate there will be substantial improvement in the legal environment to promote fundamental human rights.
On the other hand, social mobilization is expected to increase once elections are announced. Groups representing different interests have begun to use online spaces to encourage voter registration and awareness, expose political corruption and mobilize protest against arbitrary state action.
The mainstream media will be challenged, yet again, to defend its credibility that had taken a beating in recent years.
Solidarity of the Rakyat
The people who were out there, regardless of race and creed demonstrated tremendous solidarity. The tension of Bersih 3.0 was much lower than Bersih 2.0; instead there is an atmosphre of carnial in the air; T-Shirts, scarves, masks, ballons, banners and playcards; flowers and accessories that color the streets yellow.
This time around we are heartened to see many more young people, families and for our section of the town; Chinese formed the majority. It was peaceful although congested with people milling around; chatting and chanting intermittently the Bersih call, until at around 3.30pm or about, tear gas were fired at the crowd.
We felt as though the police had ambushed us as the crowd at our section was doing nothing; people were just lingering while some prepared to leave; when all of a sudden, fire gas were fired from the buildings above. The entire area turned into mayhem and everyone ran for his or her lives.
I experienced being tear-gassed for the first time. Thanks to Celine and Choy who handed me the wet towel and salt water in time, I regained my vision soon, and we moved in a cluster towards Bukit Bintang, as the police were chasing from behind.
The crowd did not panic, it just moved away from the aggressive police attack. Like Bersih 2.0; the rakyat were helping each other out; passing salt and giving a helping hand to get away from the attacking police and FRU.
The Police Knows No Respect
We knew the police were carrying out orders from some higher authorities, those orders only demonstrated the arrogance and the total lack of respect or regard for the people. The authorities blamed Bersih 3.0 organizers for not taking up the government’s offer to move to alternative venues proposed by the government.
The fact is; Merdeka Square is symbolic and being at the Merdeka Square is the message the Rakyat has for the world. Bersih is not about getting tens of thousands out on the street to show defiance, it is about reinforcing a message that Malaysians want to clean up the system and move truly towards independence from bad governance and manipulative politics.
Obviously the authorities did not agree with this point of view; and they keep on demonizing the Bersih organizers. The fact is the turnout has at least grown 5 times from Bersih 2.0’s 50,000 to Bersih 3.0’s 250,000 is good enough to show that more and more people agree with Bersih that the current electoral system and governance is seriously faulty.
Judging by the turnout and the demographics of the crowd; the people have shown quiet defiance of the authorities; the BN government has lost all credibility to the Rakyat. The People have no choice but to reject the current ridiculous misrule.
Instead of respecting the wish of the people and cede to their wishes; the authorities continue to believe might can suppress and control the people. Anyone with average IQ would have concluded that Bersih 3.0 could have been a non-event if Merdeka Square has been allowed for a 2 hour sit in. Well, we were naïve, the government’s refusal to allow this was all stage managed; they want to manufacture chaos with their agent provocateurs.
If you watched the videos sent in by eyewitnesses at Bersih 3.0; you would have the following questions:
a. Why would tear gas and water cannon be used when the crowd was just standing there peacefully;
b. Why would the police acted after the organizers have already announced and asked the crowd to disperse;
c. When the PDRM showed their video of the police car that crashed fast to the crowd by the curb, and the protestors crowded round the car to over turn the police car, you wonder how come a lone police car came by to crash into this crowd; and what happen to the thousands of FRU and police officers standing nearby, how come they did not come efficiently to bring the scene under control?
d. The charge that the protestors broke the barricade to enter Merdeka Square is also suspicious. Eyewitnesses said that the go –ahead was given by the police to enter. Again this is so suspicious as the crowd was there since last night; and in spite of the tension and emotions; no one came forward to break the barrier until after the organizers had asked the crowd to disperse.
BN continues with its own theatre
As someone on the ground who witnessed the event; all we can said to the authorities is “you can continue to stage theatre; but your acts are so bad that nobody believes you.” You can continue to fabricate lies with manufactured acts to demonize Bersih, technology has rendered you naked; you would only embarrassed yourself more.
It is your recalcitrant attitude and your stupidity that got you there; those 250,000 people in the KL City center, all over Malaysia and overseas cannot be wrong! Everyone could have stayed home on a Saturday resting or doing something else if they are not upset or angry enough to brave the heat and danger of going onto the street to send this much needed message.
You ignore this message at your own Peril – the time will come. You can’t ignore the writing on the wall; it will just take a few more attempts to get there.
Partnership with Civil Society
Malaysian politicians must learn and mature in their role in their partnership with civil society.
First, politicians must recognize and respect that the people are the boss. When Civil Society takes the lead, the cause is non –partisan and civil society is the leader. If any politicians or elected representative participates; they do so in their personal capacity as a Rakyat, not as a leader of their party or constituency; therefore the command belongs to Bersih, the civil society organizer.
Politicians who are YB or YAB must understand that these ranks are given to them by the Rakyat, not some imperial or feudalistic birthright. Politicians gained more respect and support if they respect that.
BERSIH is not a protest, it is a process
The biggest winner of Bersih is the Malaysian people. In a year, the crowd has grown from 50,000 to 250,000, plus the thousands who log on to the follow the event; it is the growing consciousness and political awakening of the people that we are concerned and are celebrating.
We are particularly heartened to see young people and Chinese families joining the street walk; it is obvious that people are coming out of the make believed fear that has terrorized Malaysian society for a long time; and that people are beginning to understand that they do have rights, that they can stand up for their rights and the power of one is critical, each and everyone is important to make up crowd that gives critical mass to the message.
People are also beginning to take responsibility as a group; that we must all work together to Say No to mis rule and bad governance; we cannot sit at home and expect some other people to do it for us.
The arrogance of the government is the cause of this outrage. The congregation of issues; Bersih’s electoral reform, Lynas’ s toxic rare earth plant, the rape of Jalan Sultan for an unneeded LRT line, the injustice did to Tan Beck Hock and many more. The Bersih process will go on and on, and the PEOPLE are ready for that.
The lawyers from the commendable the Bar Council are there for the people, this time around at Bersih 3.0; the medical PR actioners and health workers came out in droves voluntarily to organize the medical support for the crowd. We are making true progress; nobody ordered them to come, they came with their hearts to serve with love for this country.
Are you proud to be a Malaysian? I am
Are you proud that you were there at Bersih 3.0? You bet, I am.
Malaysia can only be a better place if Malaysians are united in this purpose; and reforming the electoral system is the only way forward to build a proper functioning democracy for this country.
We will stay undaunted; even if it need to get to the nth Bersih event.
If you could not make it to Bersih 3.0; we will see you at the next Berish rally.
(Pahlawan Volunteers is an advocacy group madeup of a congregation of Cyber-Malaysians who believe that Our Country is our Responsibility and that each and everyone of us must stay engaged with the development of our soceity. Pahlawans support any groups or parties that does the right thing for the country
US intelligence must stay focused on efforts byHuawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp to expand in the United States, and tell the private sector as much as possible about the purported espionage threat, the panel leaders said, based on their 11-month investigation of the two firms.
Employee-owned and unlisted Huawei is the world’s second-biggest maker of routers, switches and telecoms equipment by revenue after Sweden’s Ericsson. ZTE ranks fifth. In the global mobile phone sector, ZTE is fourth and Huawei sixth.
Huawei generated around 4 per cent of its group sales from the United States, while ZTE’s US revenues made up 2-3 per cent of its overall figure. The bulk of both companies’ US sales comes from selling handsets through US carriers such as Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile USA.
“The impact will be quite limited if the report is referring just to telecoms equipment, but it’s another story if handsets are included as well,” said Huang Leping, an analyst at Nomura Securities. “Huawei and ZTE handsets have been consistently gaining market share in the United States.”
In the US handsets market where Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics dominate, ZTE ranks sixth and Huawei eighth, according to industry figures.
The broadside – just a month before US presidential elections where the impact of China’s growth on US jobs has been a campaign issue – comes as Huawei mulls a possible initial public offering, sources said, as part of its efforts to allay suspicions that have all but blocked its US ambitions, including business tie-ups.
Huawei has been looking at the listing issue for years, but there has been little progress due to its complicated share structure and whether a listing would actually help, given that US lawmakers remain suspicious of ZTE even though it’s a listed company, analysts said.
Huawei spokesman William Plummer rejected the committee’s allegations in a statement emailed to Reuters.
“Baseless suggestions otherwise or purporting that Huawei is somehow uniquely vulnerable to cyber mischief ignore technical and commercial realities, recklessly threaten American jobs and innovation, do nothing to protect national security, and should be exposed as dangerous political distractions from legitimate public-private initiatives to address what are global and industry-wide cyber challenges,” he said.
For its part, ZTE released a copy of the letter on Monday it sent to the committee after a hearing in September, stating it “profoundly disagrees” with the claim that it is directed or controlled by the Chinese government. “ZTE should not be a focus of this investigation to the exclusion of the much larger Western vendors,” it said.
At a briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Chinese telecoms firms operate according to market principles. “We hope the US Congress will set aside prejudices and respect the facts, and also do more that is beneficial to Sino-American economic and trade ties, rather than the contrary,” he said.
ZTE’s Hong Kong-listed shares closed down 6 per cent on Monday in their biggest one-day drop in more than a month. The benchmark index fell 0.9 per cent.
Separately, US network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc said it ended a longstanding sales partnership with ZTE after an internal investigation into allegations the Chinese firm sold Cisco networking gear to Iran.
The US panel’s draft report faulted both Huawei and ZTE for failing to satisfy its requests for documents, including detailed information about formal relationships or regulatory interaction with Chinese authorities.
US companies thinking about buying from Huawei should “find another vendor if you care about your intellectual property; if you care about your consumers’ privacy and you care about the national security of the United States of America,” panel chairman Mike Rogers said in comments broadcast late on Sunday on the CBS News program “60 Minutes.”
Rogers and the committee’s top Democrat, CA Ruppersberger, have scheduled a 10 a.m. Eastern time (1400 GMT) news conference to release the final, unclassified version of their report.
The panel said it received credible allegations from unnamed industry experts and current and former Huawei employees suggesting Huawei, in particular, may be guilty of bribery and corruption, discriminatory behavior and copyright infringement.
The committee plans to refer such allegations to the justice department and department of homeland security, according to the draft made available to Reuters. “US network providers and system developers are strongly encouraged to seek other vendors for their projects,” it said.
The document cited what it called long-term security risks supposedly linked with the companies’ equipment and services.
Based on classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE, which are both based in Shenzhen, China, “cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems,” it said. Huawei and ZTE are rapidly becoming “dominant global players” in the telecommunications market, which is intertwined with computerized controls for electric power grids; banking and finance systems; gas, oil and water systems and rail and shipping, it noted.
ZTE’s US telecoms infrastructure equipment sales last year were less than $30 million. In contrast, two of the larger Western vendors alone had combined US sales that topped $14 billion, ZTE told the committee in its Sept. 25 letter, an apparent reference to Finland-based Nokia Siemens Networks and Paris-based Alcatel Lucent. “It seems self-evident that the universe of companies examined by the Committee is so small as to omit most of the equipment actually employed in the US telecom infrastructure system,” the letter said.
‘Means, opportunity, motive’
Huawei and ZTE may not be the only companies that present a risk to US infrastructure, the committee’s draft report said, but they are the two largest Chinese-founded, Chinese-owned companies seeking to market critical network equipment to the United States. Beijing has the “means, opportunity and motive” to use them to its own ends, it added.
Top executives of both told a committee hearing on Sept. 13 that their companies would never bow to a hypothetical Chinese government effort to exploit their products for espionage, equating any such move with corporate suicide. “Huawei has not and will not jeopardize our global commercial success nor the integrity of our customers’ networks for any third party, government or otherwise,” senior vice-president Charles Ding testified at the time.
The draft showed that the committee is calling on an inter-agency government group that reviews national security implications of foreign investments to block acquisitions, takeovers or mergers involving Huawei and ZTE.
In addition, it said Congress should give thorough consideration to legislation seeking to expand the role of the inter-agency group, known as the committee on foreign investments in the United States, to include purchasing agreements.
US intelligence officials have publicly denounced China as the world’s most active perpetrator of economic espionage against the United States.
Huawei has marketed its network equipment in the United States since last year, and has sold to a range of small- to medium-sized carriers nationwide, particularly in rural areas.
The company, founded by CEO Ren Zhengfei 25 years ago after he was laid off by the Chinese army, has marketed mobile phones through a broader range of US carriers for the last four years. US sales totaled $1.3 billion last year, out of overall sales of $32 billion, executives said.
|On Listening Post this week: The battle for control of Iran’s cyberspace. Plus, Kashmir and the rise of a new online army.The Iranian government’s decision to block Google last week provoked concerns among the country’s online community that the Persian firewall had just become harder to penetrate. Then, just as quickly as it had been disconnected, Google came back online. But despite the u-turn, for many, the Google incident reflected the government’s wider strategy to control who is saying what to whom in Iran.
There are plans to expand the national intranet, which connects government agencies and offices, to include an Iranian web search and email service. And there are presidential elections coming up in nine months – so it is not any surprise that the mechanisms of control are getting tougher given the role the internet played in post-election protests back in 2009. This week’s News Divide looks at the government’s fight to gain ground in Iranian cyberspace.
Our Newsbytes this week: Syria: A video clip of missing American journalist Austin Tice has surfaced but all is not what it seems to be on screen; Cambodia: A prominent radio journalists sentenced to 20 years in jail on charges of plotting against the state; Italy: the editor of one of Italy’s largest daily newspapers, Il Giornale, owned by the Berlusconi family, has been sentenced to 14 months in jail on charges of libel; and the Philippines and its controversial new cyber crime law.
Kashmir’s online army
The dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir has been a flashpoint on the sub-continent since 1947. There are more than half a million troops positioned on the Indian side alone. But you do not hear that much about it. And that is how the Indian authorities like it. But in the past few years, a host of new online voices have emerged including bloggers, filmmakers and authors who have taken their stories to web audiences in India, Pakistan and the world.
The Listening Post’s Meenakshi Ravi reports on the rise of the Kashmiri alternative media collective.