Wednesday, July 25, 2007

BBC: "Anti-Terrorism Law Against Bloggers"

Woah! Bloggers are now terrorists? From the Beebs:

Malaysia cracks down on bloggers

Raja Petra Kamarudin (Image: Malaysiakini)
Raja Petra Kamarudin is the editor of a popular political website
The Malaysian government has warned it could use tough anti-terrorism laws against bloggers who insult Islam or the country's king.

The move comes as one of Malaysia's leading online commentators has been questioned by police following a complaint by the main governing party.

The new rules would allow a suspect to be detained indefinitely, without being charged or put on trial.

But officials insist the law is not intended to strangle internet freedom.

Online critics

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak told The Straits Times that the move was aimed at getting some moderation in postings on the internet, especially on sensitive issues: "Some people feel that they have crossed the line, in making racist remarks," he said.

But the BBC's Jonathan Kent in Kuala Lumpur says the government also appears increasingly concerned about the growing online criticism of its record.

Raja Petra Kamarudin, the editor of one of Malaysia's most popular political websites, Malaysia Today, turned himself in to police on Wednesday, to answer allegations that he had mocked Islam and threatened racial harmony.

The King of Malaysia, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin (June 2007)
Bloggers who insult the king could be subject to anti-terror laws
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.

The Age puts it as less dramatic:

Malaysia's police summon political writer after government warns bloggers to behave

Police summoned a Malaysian political writer for interrogation Wednesday over Web articles lambasting the government, after a minister warned that bloggers could be jailed without trial for writing recklessly about sensitive matters such as religion.

Raja Petra Kamarudin, who runs the independent news site Malaysia Today, was told to surrender to police after the ruling United Malays National organisation filed a complaint Monday claiming his articles mocked Islam and threatened racial harmony in this multiethnic, mostly Muslim nation, said opposition activist Ronnie Liu.

Read the rest of the news here.

Also, from Monsters & Critics (UK): Malaysia threatens detention-without-trial for bloggers

Let us revisit what the de facto Malaysian Anti-Terrorism Law or the Internal Security Act is:

The Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) is a preventive detention law in force in Malaysia. Any person may be detained by the police for up to 60 days without trial for an act which allegedly threatens the security of the country or any part thereof.

Relevant sections of the legislation are as follows:

Section 73(1) Internal Security Act 1960: "Any police officer may without warrant arrest and detain pending enquiries any person in respect of whom he has reason to believe that there are grounds which would justify his detention under section 8; and that he has acted or is about to act or is likely to act in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to maintenance of essential services therein or to the economic life thereof."

Sect 8. Power to order detention or restriction of persons. "(i) If the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to the maintenance of essential services therein or the economic life thereof, he may make an order (hereinafter referred to as a detention order) directing that that person be detained for any period not exceeding two years."

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