Thursday, September 1, 2011

Asia’s New Censor Problem

Asia has a lengthy history of authoritarian governments who have made sport out of restricting the flow of information to their citizens. This tradition of filtered information is being increasingly threatened by the prominence of the Internet throughout the world.

 The prime minister of Najib Razak of Malaysia went as far as to declare the tactic of censoring newspapers and magazines is increasingly outdated, ineffective, unjustifiable.” This statement was in response to an Economist article on July 16th about government crackdowns on protestors calling for Malaysian electoral reform. Three passages talking about a mans death from a heart attack, banning of the protest march, and heavy handed tactics were disfigured with black ink. But the internet remained uncensored allowing Malaysians to access the story anyway. Source:

Autocratic Asian governments are fighting a new age war of censorship with outdated weapons from the 1950’s and 60’s when information sources were far smaller. Even when governments take the step of turning off the internet in the face of riots and other violence, boom industries occur in neighboring communities who can set up informal internet portals. This is a double problem for Asia because authoritarian governments need to restrict information from the masses, but the world is so global economically that removing oneself from the internet for a significant period of time can cost millions of dollars in lost business that could also serve to fall an autocrat.

Only one thing is absolute certainty: The battle between autocrats and the internet will be damn interesting. Readers what would you do?

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