26 July, 2007

Attacks against media and bloggers could be a move to secure control before elections

Malaysia-today.net webmaster Raja Petra Kamarudin, who is being investigated for alleged sedition, emerged defiant as ever yesterday after spending eight hours at the Dang Wangi district police headquarters.

He was summoned for questioning following a report lodged by Umno on Monday alleging the blogger had insulted the King and Islam in his website.

The 57-year-old blogger arrived about 11am, accompanied by his wife Marina Abdullah, 50, and friends. He was believed to have given a statement and met district police chief ACP Mohd Zulkarnian Abdul Rahman.

He emerged at 7.15pm to be greeted by about 30 reporters.

Mohd Zulkarnian said earlier that Raja Petra was being investigated under the Sedition Act.

Malaysiakini reported that Popular blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, 57, who is being investigated for insulting the King and Islam, has urged his readers to be responsible when posting comments on his website.

what you post in the comments section may get me sent to jail under the Sedition Act,’
he tells his readers.

Raja Petra is known for his frequent criticism of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and other government figures.

"I was alleged to have insulted the king, and also Islam and incite racial hatred, so I am going in there to reply to all these charges. I promise I'm going to give them a hell of a tough time," he told the BBC before he turned himself in.

He defended his website, saying: "Many people, especially the non-Malays in this country, do not have a forum to air their views."

"We should not deny these people a chance to vent their feelings," he said.

Malaysia Today is believed to attract around a quarter of a million visitors a day, giving it more readers than most Malaysian newspapers.

The BBC's correspondent says that with a general election on the horizon, the government seems keen to send a signal to its online critics that it will only tolerate so much.


Re: Police Action on Raja Petra

25 July 2007

I condemn the intimidation by the government and police towards Malaysia-Today’s Webmaster, Raja Petra Kamaruddin.

The action against Raja Petra began as a police report and followed by speeches criticizing bloggers by a few UMNO leaders including Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak. This is the latest intimidation on webmasters and bloggers following the arrest of my secretary Nathaniel Tan recently.

I demand the police to use their time to investigate the numerous allegations of corruption involving government leaders published by Malaysia-Today and to fight the rising rate of crime that is plaguing the country. Various reports have been made on present and former government leaders that have not been followed up, yet a report against a webmaster is immediately investigated by the police.

Malaysians need open-minded and forward-thinking leaders, not those still trapped by an outdated political culture and unable to grasp the technological realities of today. At a time when UMNO leaders are demanding bloggers to be responsible for their writing, I urge the UMNO leaders and police not to forget their responsibilities towards the Malaysian rakyat.

Anwar Ibrahim

M. Bakri Musa's comments:

I could not add to or agree more than what had been so clearly expressed by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. The summoning of Raja Petra to the police station was uncalled for. The police should have instead questioned this double Muhammad on the serious allegations made by Raja Petra. Surely the police do not have to be told to do their job, or are they like the rest of the civil service, menuggu perentah (awaiting orders)?

If this double Muhammad has any sense of integrity, he should have sued Raja Petra if those allegations are untrue.

M. Bakri Musa

An e mail alert sent by Wai Fong (CIJ)

CIJ Say: Attacks against media and bloggers could be a move to secure control before elections

26 July 2007

In recent months, the Malaysian government's rhetoric on punishing "irresponsible" bloggers is being translated into reality. Websites and blogs have been targeted one after another, and on the flimsiest pretext. The axe seems to fall on a particular group of bloggers and online writers who demonstrate due precautions, including identifying themselves, moderating their postings and checking their facts. Their predicament challenges the government claims that these writers disseminate lies and rumors and call into question the government's real motive.

All of these blogs and websites share a common thread in writing about corruption and misuse of power by the government top leaders, for which Malaysiakini.com and blogger Nathaniel Tan say is the explicit reason why they have been targeted. An expose in Raja Petra Kamaruddin's blog Malaysia Today for example has been catalytic in getting the Inspector General, Musa Hassan to be investigated by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), while Malaysiakini.com's follow up story on the Sarawak "timber kickback" has forced the Sarawak state chief minister to respond. The collective effect of these online content is that they highlighted the government's poor performance in its promised fight against corruption, a promise which secured a landslide victory for the Barisan Nasional Coalition in 2004. In March, the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) noted that the foreign investor's perception on corruption in the country had worsened, and adding salt to the injury is the outbreak of a few scandals, such as the blow to the ACA's credibility when its director-general, Zulkipli Mat Noor was implicated for corruption by a former colleague, and the acquittal of Eric Chia, the former technocrat for national steel corporation Perwaja from the charges of misappropriating more than RM70million (USD20million) in fund.

The threats and intimidation of bloggers have been ongoing, but the latest warning against bloggers reported on 25 July is the strongest to date. The de-facto Law Minister, Nazri Aziz threatened to use the Internal Security Act (ISA) which means detention without trial against bloggers, in addition to the Sedition Act.

The warning comes closely after a string of events. On 23 July, UMNO lodged a police report against the owner of the blog Malaysia Today, Raja Petra Kamarudin, charging the latter as insulting the King, over comment posted by others in his blog. Malaysia Today often carries stories about the internal issues of UMNO politics, corruption by the higher echelons of police and the alleged interference of the Prime Minister's son in-law, Khairy Jamaludin in the country's administration.

On July 13 police nabbed blogger and National Justice Party (PKR) staff Nathaniel Tan and held him for four days under the widely criticized Official Secrets Act. Nathaniel was accused of possessing documents alleging the deputy minister of Internal Security, Johari Baharum of corruption, but the said document is again an anonymous comment posted on his blog and a link to a website accusing Johari. Nathaniel was subsequently released without a charge.

Three days earlier, the youth wing of the ruling party, UMNO filed a complaint against blogger Tian Chua, also the Information Chief of PKR. He was investigated under the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) following the publication of a photomontage dubbed "dinner-for-three". The picture is a response to the ongoing trial of a Mongolian national who was murdered last year. One of the accused in the trial, Abdul Razak Baginda is a close aide of deputy prime minister, Najib Abdul Razak. The picture depicts the DPM, the Mongolian murder victim lookalike, and Abdul Razak Baginda at a dinner.

In June, Malaysiakini.com was also sued by the Sarawak state chief minister Taib Mahmud. The online daily published a story implicating Taib Mahmud and his family members as the recipient of RM32 million (USD9 million) in kickbacks in return for timber export concessions.

These vocal blogs and websites stick out like sore thumbs against the context of the government inaction against corruption. They break the legislative barriers of information, such as the Printing Presses and Publication Acts, imposed by the government on print media and the CMA that regulates TV and radio stations. Over the years, government officials have been increasingly wary of the growing influence of blogs. It is claimed that the blogs of Jeff Ooi, Ahirudin Atan and Raja Petra each enjoy a readership of over a million while for Malaysiakini.com the figure is three million pageview per-month. The Ministry of Internal Security issued directives twice to mainstream print media not to quote from online sources, while in June the government announced it will set up a taskforce to, among others, study ways to circumvent the Multimedia Bill of Guarantee, which hitherto limits the government from censoring the Internet.

It is apparent from the various cries and whines by government officials, ranging from members of parliament, senators to ministers, deputy ministers and senior leaders of UMNO calling for Internet to be censored, that they are only concerned about the perceived damage upon government leaders because of the online content. The Prime Minister himself has stated that bloggers and online writers "misuse their freedom" and have used the web space to slander him.

The vigilante mentality against the media and individual expressions also comes at a time when talk of a general elections is gaining momentum. The Malaysian mainstream media is known for its lopsided and biased reporting in favour of the ruling coalition during elections, and the clampdown against bloggers, and even the mainstream media for opposition coverage, is indicative of the government's control over critical information.

Using the preservation of public order and security as an excuse, the government embarks on high-handed actions against the above bloggers and websites, but instead of chasing after the anonymous commentators, it acts against the writers who dared to put their names on what they write and who try hard not to fit into the government's labeling. For Malaysiakini.com, Taib Mahmud's defamation suit sends the chill across the local media industry.

It seems that the government, failing to control the free-flow of information in the cyber space as it does in traditional media, is resorting to intimidation tactics, particularly on opposition views and allegations of corruption.

More than 10 million websites are currently being "filtered" in Iran, according to the state Information Technology Company.

The range of blocked websites includes a handful of pornographic, political, or human rights-related addresses and even some forum websites.

At a time when the country suffers from what human rights defenders describe as a severe "information crackdown," a group of young Iranians inside the country is determined to battle the dominant policy of online censorship imposed by the Iranian leadership.

The group Iran Proxy is formed by some Iranian youngsters who believe that this "new dictatorial barrier" must be fought from inside of the country -- and that they must remain underground to be able to do so.

Iran Proxy describes itself as the first anti-filtering group inside Iran. It says it is focused on introducing and promoting simple -- and yet technologically advanced -- ways of helping Iranian users skirt web filters.

Read :" Proxy Battle To Counter Internet 'Filtering'"



Anonymous J.T. said...

Why can't the powers-that-be realise that the more they crackdown on bloggers, the more publicity is created?
This leads to more people looking for the truth behind many things the powers-that-be may be hiding.

If they have nothing to hide, why are they afraid of bloggers? Why aren't they being investigated?

" We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office." - Aesop

July 27, 2007 4:59 PM  

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