February 17, 2011

Social media was said to have helped bring an end to Mubarak’s 30-year rule of Egypt. — Reuters pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak today noted the role of social media in the recent Middle Eastern revolutions, but again pledged not to censor the Internet and said Malaysia remained a democracy. The prime minister said Election 2008 showed that the country was democratic, after the opposition managed to win five states and denied the ruling coalition its customary two-thirds majority in parliament.
“Let us not be apologetic about democracy in Malaysia. There is democracy in Malaysia. Sometimes I feel like there is too much democracy in Malaysia,” Najib said during a Dewan Negara function in Parliament here.
“While some argue that there is no debate but he (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) can criticise me every night during ceramah (political rallies). Isn’t that democracy?” he added.
Najib also pointed out that the biggest challenges of globalisation were technology and the advent of social media.
He said the government could no longer monopolise and control the dissemination of information.
“One of the biggest challenges in the era of globalisation is technology and especially social networking. This is a very important weapon.
“That is why I say that I am not as lucky as my predecessors,” he said.
He said social networking has made it easy for personal attacks and allegations to be made.
Najib then said governments could also be brought down through social media, referring to the crucial role social networking services Facebook and Twitter had played in the events leading to the end of the three-decade rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Prior to Mubarak’s departure, the Egyptian government had briefly banned Twitter, after it was reported that mass protests were being organised via the micro-blogging service.
Social media services were also partly credited for an earlier popular uprising in Tunisia.
Today, Najib also reaffirmed government’s promise to not censor the internet.
“It means that it will be more challenging for us in terms of politics but we can manage the challenges and we have the willpower to manage this change,” he said.
The country’s sixth prime minister is active in social media and has a blog that links to his official accounts for services such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. He also recently started responding directly to tweets from other Twitter account holders.
According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) 2010 democracy index, Malaysia remains a “flawed democracy” due to a “gradual erosion of civil liberties and political culture in the past year.”
The EIU also reported a “slight deterioration” in democracy here, although it noted that “elections are generally free, and voters are not subject to serious intimidation.”

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