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Media freedom conference honours Malaysian politician who wants to prosecute bloggers around the world

Less than a year ago, Gobind Singh Deo called not only for strict regulation of online speech, but also enforcement powers reaching even those not living in Malaysia.

As the second day of Canada’s and the United Kingdom’s first ever Global Conference for Media Freedom, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt honoured a Malaysian politician he says is on the front lines of standing up for press freedom.

Malaysia is pursuing a “moralistic approach” to journalistic freedom involving regulation and legislation to deal with “fake news,” Malaysian communications minister Gobind Singh Deo said in his remarks Thursday morning.

Hunt didn’t mention that less than a year ago Singh Deo called not only for strict regulation of online speech, but also enforcement powers reaching even those not living in Malaysia.

Singh Deo appeared on stage alongside Hunt and Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland as part of the plenary session kicking off the London conference’s final day.

Last September, Singh Deo said hate speech legislation needs to have an “extra-territorial” approach, triggered by a remark made by a blogger living in London that took aim at a Malaysian police chief’s turban.

The British-born blogger, Raja Petra Kamarudin, had said the chief’s “turban must be too tight that it restricted the flow of blood to his brain.”

Singh Deo said it amounted to an attack on all Sikhs.

“It deserves nothing less than the highest degree of condemnation,” Singh Deo wrote. “It undermines the most basic values we Malaysians uphold, which is mutual respect for each other.”

Though the same post went beyond simply calling for a more respectful society.

“We cannot and must not allow such attacks against any one of us to go unnoticed,” he added. “This is an example of why it is we need to push ahead for laws which regulate hate speech. These laws must also focus on more effective and efficient extra-territorial reach so as to facilitate the prosecution of persons who commit such offences from overseas here in Malaysia.”

Singh Deo also said in March that he was mulling a new law that would hold news outlets responsible for “inflammatory remarks” made by people commenting on their news stories.

“Freedom of expression does not mean (freedom) to promote lewd, vulgar or sexist comments,” he said, according to a New Straits Times article.

More to come.

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