25 July 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Attacks on Malaysian Internet journalists and bloggers show no sign of decreasing despite a perceived positive attitude towards the media as adopted by Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah Ahmad recently called to the government and its agencies to respect criticism from the media and to accept it as feedback that could be acted upon.
In a latest development, the owner of Malaysian current affairs website, “brandmalaysia.com”, was forced to withdraw links on his site to website www.michaelsoosai.org after receiving an email warning on 18 July from a police officer in the Cyber Crime and Multimedia Investigation Division.
Mack Zulkifli told Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ), a SEAPA local partner in Malaysia , he was warned that he could be investigated and charged under the Official Secrets Act for divulging a state secret. A person could face a jail term of between one and seven years if found guilty under Section 8 of the Act.
Although michaelsoosai.org is no longer available online in Malaysia, www.michaelsoosai.org contained police reports and internal police communications, none of which were marked secret.
In June 2005, the website published a report allegedly that a criminal faked his own death with the assistance of senior police officers and made front page news in Malaysian papers.
Earlier on 14 July, opposition-linked website, “Malaysia Today”, whose editor, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, had two computers confiscated from his home in Sungai Buloh near the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Until now his computers have not been returned.
On 8 July, he was also investigated for two hours under the Sedition Act 1960 about articles relating to the Negri Sembilan royal family, alleging corruption and political interference.
Sedition in Malaysia is very broadly defined, but includes a section aimed at preventing questioning of the position of the Malay Rulers. Offenders could face a sentence of three to five years.
In a related development, police closed an investigation of independent Malaysian news website, “Malaysiakini.com”, on 12 July 2005. The investigation under the Sedition Act 1960 was sparked by an allegedly seditious letter published in the website about the government’s Malay favourtism policy and resulted in the ‘arrest’ of 15 computers and 4 servers from the site’s Kuala Lumpur office on 20 January 2003.
According to an article on the site, the police also returned the final two servers that Malaysiakini had officially donated to the police, having returned the other 17 computers in 2003.
Malaysiakini currently faces another investigation over an April Fool’s prank
“The decision by the authorities to close the investigation into Malaysiakini is long-overdue and the fact that they hold back Malaysiakini’s computers for two years indicates that such measure is being used to intimidate the web publishers,”SEAPA notes.
SEAPA is concerned that Malaysian authorities continue to wield the Official Secrets Act and the Sedition Act against other news websites despite government’s guarantees to protect freedom of expression on the Internet.
In the last three months of 2004, three separated websites were threatened with a series of laws including sedition and official secret legislation.