Malaysia vows crackdown on Internet 'abuses'

Malaysia's information ministry will create a unit to monitor and counter what it says are lies being spread on the Internet about government policies, an AFP report said.

The AFP report quoted Malaysia's Deputy Information Minister Chia Kwang Chye as saying that the government will issue written explanations to tackle what he said was abuse of the Internet and online technology.

'This special unit will be purely working to disseminate information, explain correct information and counter the misinformation on government policies,' Chia was quoted as saying by the Bernama news agency.

The AFP report said the move comes amid attacks on Malaysian bloggers and Internet users by ministers, including Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who accuse them of spreading slander and gossip.

The government has threatened punishment and tighter controls on Internet use in response, the AFP report added.

Two prominent bloggers are also being sued for defamation by the government-linked New Straits Times Press group in an action criticized as an unprecedented attack on freedom of expression, the report said.

Chia said that while the unit will tackle misinformation about what he said were issues of 'national interest', it will not have the power to act against bloggers, reports said.