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Kuek Ser Kuang Keng | Apr 14, 09 2:47pm
Rais Yatim, the new minister who will oversee the cyberworld, began his new portfolio today by inviting bloggers to be partners in implementing government policy.
The newly-appointed information, communication, art and culture minister also stressed that legal action will be the government’s last resort when dealing with errant bloggers.
“I propose that along with my (ministry) colleagues here to study how can we cooperate with the bloggers, how we can know more about each other and forge a closer rapport between us in the official media channels and them.”
“This is important. We should not always use repression (against the bloggers),” said Rais after taking over from former information minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek in Angkasapuri this morning.
His two deputies – Joseph Salang Gandum and Heng Seai Kie – together with all department heads were there to witness the official handing over of ministerial duties.
A ‘3-in-1’ new ministry
Rais described his new ministry as a ‘3-in-1’ ministry consisting departments from three former ministries – Information Ministry, Energy, Water and Communications Ministry and National Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry.
All national and private broadcast media as well as the Internet media, which were previously handled by two different ministries, will now fall under this new ministry.
Some media watchdogs however see it as a ominous sign of greater government control over both the traditional and new media.
When asked about the ministry’s policy towards new media, Rais reiterated that “invoking legal power is the last resort”.
“Influence and harmonious rapport is more important,” he added.
But to a question whether this meant more space for bloggers to express themselves, Rais warned that those who violate the laws will still be punished.
“When the law is not respected, there will be chaos in administration,” said Rais, referring to bloggers who made unfounded allegations in cyberspace.
Law seminar for bloggers
Rais also plans to hold a seminar in his first month in office to educate both journalists and bloggers on related laws, namely the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Act 1998.
“I intend to follow the law,” said Rais, adding that a syllabus will be prepared to let netizens understand the legal framework of cyberspace.
When told that the bloggers may refuse to attend the seminar, Rais said, “I can bring the horse to the water, but I can’t force it to drink. If it refuses to drink, it will feel thirsty.”
Rais, who once headed information ministry from 1984 to 1986, vowed to enhance the status of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language.
He said he would also assist Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in realising the recently-coined ‘One Malaysia’ vision and to have better communication with the younger generation.