24 January 2003
The police raid on independent online daily malaysiakini is “appropriate” and must serve as a “warning” to other media to be more responsible in their job, said Umno Youth.
Police on Monday raided the company’s office and confiscated 15 CPUs and four servers as a result of a report lodged by the youth wing last week against the daily for publishing an allegedly seditious letter. Ten have been returned as of yesterday.
Quoted in yesterday’s media reports, deputy chief Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir said, “I felt that malaysiakini’s allowing the article [sic] to be published is very dangerous to the harmony of this country.
Abdul Aziz further urged those who had read the “seditious” letter titled ‘Similarities between “new Americans” and bumiputera’, to lodge a police report in the nation’s interest.
“We believe the media can have their press freedom and freedom of expression but they must be responsible in publishing their material and ensure it won’t harm the country’s interest,” he said.
Abdul Aziz himself has a report lodged against him in 2000 for leading a group of Umno Youth supporters who reportedly threatened to burn down the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. They were protesting against Suqiu’s (the election appeal committee) 17-point appeal which among others called for the abolition of the distinction between bumiputera and non-bumiputera.
‘Teach them a lesson’
Echoing Abdul Aziz’ call, Umno Youth public welfare bureau chief Ismail Sabri Yaakob urged the police to charge malaysiakini and its editor-in-chief Steven Gan under Sedition Act “to teach them a lesson”.
“Generally malaysiakini’s reports have been one-sided but we have kept quiet. However, we can’t tolerate it anymore when they published such seditious news [sic],” Ismail was quoted as saying in a news report yesterday.
This line of ‘argument’ was carried on in their official website’s editorial ‘Malaysiakini should be taught to understand sensitivity’, which said stern action should be taken against the online daily.
It quoted Gan correctly as saying that “the letters have gone through a strict selection process”, but mistranslated his next statement – “the letters [sic] were published because they [sic] contained facts of a comparative study”.
(What Gan actually said was “We believe that the said letter…was based on a factual comparative study.”)
The editorial questioned the consideration given to past letters which it claimed carried the same theme, one of which was ‘Time to end the bumi/non-bumi divide’ and another unnamed one, purportedly about the sufferings of an Indian Malaysian.
It slammed the letters as just “emotional expressions not based on actual facts”.
“If we look at the quality of and facts contained in the letters and refer back to Gan’s statement, we’d definitely find it puzzling how malaysiakini could obtain international awards,” it said.
In 2001, the online daily won two awards – the International Press Institute’s Free Media Pioneer. In 2000, Gan won the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom award. A former editor won the Reporters Sans Frontiers Press Freedom award.
‘No point in debates’
The editorial went on to say that Umno Youth was only defending the rights of Malay Malaysians.
It said the arguments were easily rebutted, but found no point in such debates.
“Would racial integration be achieved this way? Debates on such issues will only hurt the feelings of various sides and further damage interracial harmony.”
In an implied warning, it said malaysiakini should know that it is not difficult for the government to track down the daily if it breaches any law.
“Malaysiakini is not a virtual organisation. It has an office. Its editors are Malaysians and in the country. Its reporters are everywhere. They also have bank accounts in the country. So the authorities should have no problems in sniffing out their improper behaviour.”
Malaysiakini, set up in 1999, is Malaysia’s only independent online news daily. Unlike the print and electronics media, it is free of licensing requirements because the government had pledged there would be no control of Internet content in line with the move to create the Multimedia Super Corridor, Malaysia’s answer to Silicon Valley.