Minister Tifatul blames new media for Arab ‘turmoil’

INDONESIA’S communications minister on Thursday lamented the role of social media in Arab democracy movements and warned the government to control websites like Facebook and Twitter.

In a speech to school children, Tifatul Sembiring said new media had caused turmoil in the Arab world, where popular uprisings ousted the autocratic leaders of Egypt and Tunisia and brought the Libyan regime to its knees.

‘The government has the authority to control the Internet,’ he told elementary school students in central Jakarta at the launch of a ‘Healthy Internet’ campaign.

‘Don’t let things happen like in Tunisia and Libya, which failed to control social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and they caused turmoil there. People are free to express their opinion, but they must be responsible.’

The minister, a conservative Muslim and prolific user of microblogging site Twitter, has campaigned strongly against pornography and introduced electronic filtering to block smut from the Web.

But his comments about the Arab world suggest he is also concerned about online political comment, of the sort that helped ignite popular unrest against corrupt autocrats in the Middle East.

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