Malaysia 7 May 2008
Web censorship fears as online journalist faces sedition charge
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the jailing of Raja Petra Kamarudin, editor of online publication Malaysia Today (http://www.malaysia-today.net/2008/) on a charge of sedition over an article on the murder of model, Altantuya Shaariibuu, implicating the deputy prime minister.
Kamarudin refused to pay a fine of 5,000 ringgit (just over 1,000 euros) and is currently being held in Sungai Buloh prison, 25 kilometres from the capital Kuala Lumpur.
Raja Petra Kamarudin, 58, nicknamed RPK, was arrested under the 1948 Sedition Act that punishes “any incitement to hatred, suspicion or contempt of any leader or government member”. He faces up to three years in prison.
In his 25 April 2008 article headlined “Let’s send the Altantuya murderers to hell”, Kamarudin said he suspected deputy prime minister, Najib Abdul Razak, and his wife of being linked to the murder of the 28-year-old model, killed by two bullets to the head and found near Kuala Lumpur in October 2006. Najib Abdul Razak has denied Kamarudin’s allegations, calling them “groundless”.
“This is the first time that a blogger has been officially accused of sedition in Malaysia,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “The authorities are using Raja Petra Kamarudin as a scapegoat. The government wants to silence online criticism. Given the state of the press, the Internet is the main space where citizens can express themselves freely. We urge the authorities to free Raja Petra Kamarudin while awaiting trial”.
The authorities questioned Kamarudin about the article on 2 May, under Section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act, which provides for up to one year in prison and harsh fines for online publication of false or defamatory articles. Police have seized his computer.
Reporters Without Borders managed to speak to the online editor on 3 May, when he expressed his “anxiety” that he could go to prison for refusing to speak. “My article is political, my blog is political, Najib Razak is a politician and this murder is political”, he told independent news website Malaysiakini.com.
The ministry of internal security has been using the fight against incitement to racial hatred or insulting the King, to silence dissident voices, particularly bloggers. In July 2007, Justice Minister, Nazri Abdul Aziz, said the government would not hesitate to use the Internal Security Act (ISA) to punish them. The ISA provides for two years in prison without trial for offences such as “breaching state security”.
Kamarudin has come in for previous harassment from the authorities. He was arrested in 2001 while running the website Free Anwar Campaign (http://www.freeanwar.net), campaigning on behalf of deputy Anwar Ibrahim, who was sentenced to nine years in prison for organising a demonstration against corruption in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
The Malaysian blogosphere is extremely vigorous and chiefly backs the opposition. Malaysia Today’s site has received the equivalent of nearly 8,000 euros in donations in the past 24 hours following an appeal launched yesterday by his associates at the start of legal proceedings against Kamarudin.
His wife, Marina Lee, tried to visit Kamarudin today, but was not able to see him because ‘RPK’ had apparently waived his right to visits.
Guess who is the greatest fool now?