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Teaching Online Journalism

Online free speech attacked

The publisher of a popular news Web site (Malaysia Today) was held by Malaysian police and questioned for eight hours yesterday, then released (brief report and comments here).

At issue: A claim that Raja Petra Kamarudin, editor of the Web site, is responsible for “postings and articles … [that] were disrespectful to the King and Islam, and that Raja Petra had incited racial hatred through his blog,” according to another Web-only news site, Malaysiakini. In cases in which “inciting racial hatred” is claimed, a person in Malaysia can be imprisoned indefinitely under the country’s laws.

It is speculated, according to the BBC, that the national government wants to intimidate bloggers and other online commentators so that they will tone down their criticism of the prime minister, who is likely to be up for re-election soon.

The primary law that governs the Internet in Malaysia is the Communications and Multimedia Act, which states: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting the censorship of the Internet.” In another part of the Act, you’ll find this: “In general, if something is illegal ‘offline,’ it will also be illegal ‘online.’”


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