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Thursday, November 5, 1998 Published at 17:02 GMT

Malaysia's Net patrol

Malaysians are turning to net media for Anwar news

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
Police in Malaysia have set up an Internet unit to monitor sites and newsgroups which have been organising protests against the jailing of the former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim.

Matt Frei reports from Kuala Lumpur
According to the national Bernama news agency the unit was set up on the instructions of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Its mission was to watch for information and messages which could affect public security.

Malaysians who feel their newspapers and broadcasters are toeing the government line too much have been turning increasingly to the Internet for alternative coverage.

Reports in the foreign media, accused by the prime minister of trying to engineer his downfall, are freely available over the World Wide Web.

Numerous pro-Anwar Websites have also been set up and there are no-holds-barred debates online in newsgroups such as soc.culture.malaysia.

Putting names to anonymous e-mails

Some of the messages deal with how to avoid detection by the authorities. Many users adopt aliases, but this does not guarantee complete anonymity when expressing views.

Investigations aided by the Malaysian Institute of Microelectronics Systems (Mimos), an Internet Service Provider, led to the arrest of four people in August, who were charged with spreading rumours of rioting.

The three computer specialists and a bank manager had been detained under the Internal Security Act after an anonymous e-mail warned that migrant workers from Indonesia were buying machetes as a prelude to riots.

Anwar supporters have posted details of protests on the Internet, which has served as a campaign organiser as well as disseminator of information.

The president of Mimos tried to reassure users last Friday that their privacy would be respected. Tengku Azzman said the authorities could not monitor every e-mail that was transmitted as it was against the law.

"The Telecommunications Act provides such privacy and protection for e-mail users," he said, adding that Mimos would help by adding e-mail encryption software to its service in the near future.

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