A third website is under investigation for discussing Islam. Attacks spearheaded by Malay-language newspapers have targetted one website a month since October.
The right to discuss religion on the Internet is under renewed attack, with the Deputy Prime Minister reported as saying that the Government will investigate a third website for conducting an open debate on privileges accorded to Muslims. The attacks on the website began on 13 December.
Malay-language dailies Berita Harian and Harian Metro have published articles alleging that the Malaysia-Today news opinion website has been denigrating Islam. The site has been running a series called ‘Open Debate on Islam’ in its ‘Loony Malaysia’ column, written by editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin. The article sparking the controversy, ‘One nation, two systems’, raised questions about the allegedly one-sided nature of religious debate in Malaysia.
According to local news reports, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak accused the author of ‘sowing the seeds of racial hatred’. Raja Petra was arrested under the Internal Security Act in April 2001 and previously ran the Free Anwar Campaign, closely linked with opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (the People’s Justice Party).
December is the third consecutive month a website has come under attack for raising issues related to Islam. The first attack, on webmaster Jeff Ooi for remarks made by an anonymous poster on ‘Islam Hadhari’, occurred in October. This was followed by the closure of the Malaysia Boleh forum in November. The first two were threatened with action under the Sedition Act, which allows for fines and up to three years’ imprisonment.
The Centre for Independent Journalism is concerned that this attack has broadened the scope of websites being targetted by the media. While the first two attacks on websites were against material involving strong language, this article was significantly more measured.
No charges were brought against any of those involved in the Jeff Ooi ‘Anwar’ case, as the former was reported as having shown penitence for his remarks.
After the Energy, Water and Telecommunications Minister asked newspapers not to highlight the issue of the ‘Malaysia Boleh’ forum, CIJ has not seen any further news stories published about the site.
Please note: The webmaster of the forum at www.malaysiaboleh.tk denies any involvement with the old forum. Apologies for any inconvenience caused by the earlier statement.
For further information contact Sonia Randhawa at the Centre for Independent Journalism, +603 4023 0772 during office hours.