Political website Malaysia Today reported blocked amidst crackdown on bloggers

By: spambot on 27 August 2008
Posted in Malaysia, Asia

The independent website Malaysiakini.com, reportedly the country’s most popular alternative news source, has announced that the political website Malaysia Today has been blocked by order of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). On its home page, Malaysia Today claims it is being blocked by TMNet, the country's largest ISP.

Malaysia Today's founder, Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK), was charged with sedition in May 2008 and is scheduled for trial in October 2008. He had published an article on April 25 linking Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak to the October 2006 murder of a Mongolian translator. Lawyer Muhammad Shafee lodged a complaint against RPK on criminal defamation and sedition charges for claiming that Shafee was complicit in a conspiracy to fabricate sodomy charges against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. On August 13, Kamarudin was ordered by the High Court to reveal his sources for three online articles concerning Shafee, reveal the identities of visitors who left comments and messages on Malaysia Today, and remove the articles and all comments from the site.

The targeting of Kamarudin is part of a more concerted effort to dampen the influence of independent news sites and blogs, which have been credited with providing opposition parties with a platform to mobilize around the March 2008 general elections. In March, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition had its worst showing ever and five bloggers were elected to seats for opposition parties (including Jeff Ooi, who has himself been sued for defamation). Following the election, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that the BN’s "biggest mistake" in the elections was in believing the "cyberwar” was unimportant.

Global Voices Advocacy reports that a mounting crackdown on Malaysian bloggers can be expected in the wake of the August 26 by-election, in which Anwar Ibrahim won a seat in Parliament and paving the way for his effort to topple the BN coalition by mid-September. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was reportedly one of the senior government officials who, in a meeting last week, decided to counteract criticism against them by taking bloggers to court for defamation and sedition.