Whither Free Speech? Bloggers under attack in Malaysia!

Malaysian Bloggers threatened with draconian detention without trial laws. Volunteer lawyers urgently needed. Contact Bar Council Human Rights Committee.

You will all have read about Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dato’ Seri Nazri Aziz’s threat to take legal action against bloggers. Bernama reports that he said “the government would not hesitate to use the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 121B of the Penal Code against these bloggers.”

This chilling threat of action against bloggers is the latest of a series of worrying events.

The arrest and detention of Nathaniel Tan for about 4 days, the police report against Raja Petra Kamarudin, the libel suits by the NST against Rocky and Jeff Ooi and by Taib Mahmud against Malaysiakini all seem to be designed to stifle free speech in the run up to the next election.

There is a reasonable apprehension that the stated reason of “insulting the King” or “insulting Islam” is a smokescreen. This is because blogs have become a source of much information not otherwise in the public domain. Convincing allegations of gross corruption supported by evidence convincing enough to merit a reasoned response by the powers that be have been divulged through websites and blogs over the past year or two. The power of blogs to garner popular support with voter education drives and thereby hold policians accountable may also be part of the “udang di sebalik batu”

(The popularity of Malaysia-Today, Malaysiakini, Haris Ibrahim’s People’s Parliament, the Citizen Think Tank and other websites/blogs are cases in point).

In light of this threat to freedom of expression by using the repressive Internal Security and Sedition Acts, the Bar Council Human Rights Committee has decided to initiate a drive to gather a pool of volunteer lawyers to be on standby to assist bloggers. This will be part of the Interventions Strike Force led by Deputy Chair Amer Hamzah Arshad. (I am writing this because Amer is outstation and Haris Ibrahim is already on duty on behalf of Raja Petra at the Dang Wangi police station)

If you are a lawyer who is able to help, please email the Human Rights Research Officer, Mr Rajen Devaraj at [email protected] or send him a fax at 03-20342825/20261313 with your Name, Firm and full contact details (including email address and handphone number) so he can liaise with you.

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Shanmuga K sometimes sees a purple banana emerging in his sub-conscious. An article seems to then be magically written. He is @shanmuga_k on Twitter. When he does not see those purple bananas, he practices as a lawyer at www.kanesalingam.com

Posted on 25 July 2007. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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One Response to Whither Free Speech? Bloggers under attack in Malaysia!

  1. Gopal Raj Kumar

    Bloggers who profess to being democratic and champions of free speech must first demonstrate that they too have the stomach for a contrarian point of view however distasteful, hurtful and difficult that may be to accept. All they need to do is to open themselves to the debate that is raging.

    Theresa Kok, Lim Kit Siang, Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Elizabeth Wong are but examples of this class of hypocrite.

    They pontificate on the virtues of free speech, condemn what they see as a "draconian' (an overused and well hackneyed cliche) law on the prohibition of their often vile, racist and xenophobic propaganda without adequate evidential support ( government prerogative and discretionary power) whilst banning and excising critical assessment sof their points of view by people like myself and many others like my colleague Lee Eng Seng lawyer and economist in Australia.

    Keep up the fight but make sense of it.