The Malaysian government has not only declared that this weekend’s Bersih 4 rally is illegal, it has also tasked its Communications and Multimedia Commission with curbing the protests’ online elements.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) posted on its Facebook page that it will block websites which “promote, spread information about and encourage people to join the Bersih 4 demonstration” because the event’s protestors “threaten national stability”, according to an article published Thursday by the Malaysian Insider.
This announcement directly contradicts a recent government statement that insisted the authorities had no plans to block Berish 4.0-related websites.
In the release, the MCMC also stated that it would “like to remind the people to be careful in sharing any information in social media or websites, especially information that can contravene with Malaysia’s laws.”
The rally, which begins at 2pm local time in Kuala Lumpur Saturday, were announced on July 29 by Berish, which is also known as the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections. Simultaneous rallies are scheduled to take place in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.
Bersih 4’s five demands are: Free and fair elections; A transparent government; The right to demonstrate; Strengthening the parliamentary democracy system; Saving the national economy.
Aside from the planned physical protests, hundreds of Facebook users have posted on the Prime Minister Najib Razak’s page, demanding that he step down.
Most of their ire seems to stem from Mr Najib’s alleged meddling in state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which has accumulated billions of ringgit of debt. The Prime Minister has also been accused of directing US$700 million 1MDB funds into his personal bank accounts. However, Mr Najib has steadfastly denied the accusations.
After it was announced that the rallies would be illegal, the Malaysian Bar Council released a statement saying it would defend any protestors arrested at the demonstrations. The Malay Mail quoted Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru, who said incarcerated demonstrators can call his “urgent arrest team” which will “try to contact the arrested person and to arrange legal assistance as quickly as possible.”