Kuala Lumpur – Umno president Najib Abdul Razak has called for open warfare with the DAP’s Red Bean Army online, urging Umno members to flood the Internet in a war of words to counter what he viewed as “false views” about the party and himself.
“Open Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you can’t be bloggers, being Facebook and Twitter practitioners is enough. When you see false views, you can counter them. When you see the party president being attacked, you can attack them back,” he said.
The Umno president has come under severe attack for months, from the political opposition as well as prominent critics such as former premier Mahathir Mohamad, over the affairs of the troubled government investment arm 1Malaysia Development Bhd and news of a US$700 million (RM2.75 billion at current rates) deposit in his personal bank accounts two years ago.
Speaking at Bandar Tun Razak Umno’s divisional meeting in Cheras today, Najib said Umno members must control the new political “battleground. Should all three million of Umno members be active on social media, the party would “dominate social media and defeat the Red Bean Army and all, because we have the strength”.
The Red Bean Army is a term used by Umno bloggers to describe the host of online critics and “keyboard warriors” – seen to be DAP supporters – who actively aggressively post news articles, comments, satirical photographs and banners against Najib and other Umno leaders.
The DAP has denied accusations that the party funds the network of online critics.
The exhortation by Najib, who is prime minister, for an online war of words comes at a time when his government has blocked Internet access to Sarawak Report and suspended the publishing licences of the Edge business weekly and Financial Daily for their extensive reporting on 1MDB.
Several hundred people, including journalists, activists, politicians and members of the public gathered in the centre of Kuala Lumpur today in support of press freedom and in protest against the suspensions.
Najib’s new communications minister Salleh Said Keruak has also spoken about changes in the law to impose licensing rules on news web sites through amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act. However, he wrote today that curbs were necessary to guard against obscene and inflammatory postings being sent through the Internet, as well as safeguards for defamation and contempt of court.
Salleh has been criticised by journalists and media activists for wanting to impose repressive measures against political dissidents in contravention of the government’s promises not to censor the Internet.