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Video clips critical of govt still blocked, accounts deleted

There has been an uptick in restrictions of TikTok clips critical of government policies under Anwar Ibrahim's administration.

3 minute read
YB Viral, Na'im Brundage and Ratu Naga, among critics of the government whose TikTok accounts are blocked.
YB Viral, Na'im Brundage and Ratu Naga, among critics of the government whose TikTok accounts are blocked.

Question marks continue over the matter of free speech under Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim as social media influencers not aligned with the government find their accounts often blocked or deleted. 

Such occurrences have become more frequent in recent times, with many TikTokers critical of government policies finding their content either blocked or removed. 

Na'im Brundage, who regularly uploads short videos questioning government policies, found his TikTok account blocked for the third time on March 26.

His last clip had questioned the government for allowing PKR to hold a meeting at Seri Perdana, the prime minister's official residence.

The account was created less than a month ago, but had already garnered over 14,300 followers.

The first time Na'im's account was blocked was on Feb 20. He lost 120,400 followers after posting a video criticising the manner in which Anwar responded to a reporter's question on the ringgit decline.

On March 9, a second account with 35,000 followers was blocked.

Na'im said none of the videos he uploaded, which have a total of two million "likes", had ever been flagged for community violations.

"I sent a report to the TikTok management several times but have not received any explanation," he told MalaysiaNow.

He also said he had never touched on so-called 3R issues – race, religion and royalty – a reason often cited by government leaders to justify action against critics and opposition politicians.

Dozens of other Malaysians, including politicians, have had similar experiences.

Putrajaya MP Radzi Jidin told the Dewan Rakyat on Feb 27 that his TikTok video commenting on the fall of the ringgit had been deleted.

The same was the case with influencer Ratu Naga, who often uploads clips making fun of government leaders, and YB Viral who is known for his hard-hitting comments on the government's economic management.

To date, seven TikTok accounts involving 50 videos from YB Viral have been "geo-restricted", meaning that videos cannot be viewed in Malaysia except through VPN access.

"We understand that this geo-restriction is due to government request," YB Viral told MalaysiaNow.

"Fortunately, my videos have been uploaded to other netizens' accounts."

He also said that the constant restrictions on TikTok had caused video views on Facebook and YouTube to increase.

Government admits complaining

The government has consistently denied involvement in the restriction of online content, saying this is up to the platform operators themselves.

However, Deputy Communications Minister Teo Nie Ching admitted that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), an agency under the control of Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil, had made requests to platforms such as TikTok for videos to be taken down. 

So far, only TikTok, the popular China-based video platform, appears to have met MCMC's requests. 

Other platforms such as X and YouTube have repeatedly refused the government's request to take down content, in line with their policy on free speech.

Since his appointment as minister in charge of media affairs, Fahmi has come under criticism over action taken against media outlets.

In June last year, MalaysiaNow was blocked for 48 hours without any notice, drawing flak from various quarters.

TV Pertiwi and Utusan TV have had their websites blocked as well.

The move prompted concern from global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which publishes an annual media freedom index.

"RSF is very concerned by this wave of suspensions by Malaysian authorities, without any explanations or judicial control, of news websites critical of the government," RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau director Cedric Alviani said last September.

For Na'im, there is no justification for TikTok blocking his account other than pressure from MCMC.

He said the government had found itself unable to counter narratives on social media.

"So it takes the easy way by deleting their social media accounts. This contradicts the right to freedom of speech enshrined in the Federal Constitution," he said, vowing to continue uploading his videos.