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Police Raid on Online Newspaper Malaysiakini Jeopardizes Press Freedom,
Repressive Action Deviates from Vision of the Information Society

A wide coalition of Asia Pacific civil society condemns the unwarranted police raid on Malaysian online newspaper Malaysiakini.

For Immediate Press Release

January 29, 2003


Source  :  Asian Civil Societies\' Response to the WSIS

To:
Minister of Home Affairs, Selangor, Malaysia
Inspector General of Police , Polis Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

CC:
Chairman, Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), Kula Lumpur, Malaysia
Committee to Protect Journalists, New York, USA
Editor-in-Chief Malaysiakini, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia



We, the undersigned organizations representing Asia Pacific’s national, regional and international civil society entities that are concerned about human rights issues in the information society, condemn the police raid on Malaysian online newspaper Malaysiakini that occurred on January 20, 2003. This raid has severely jeopardized press freedom.

We fully support Malaysiakini to exercise its rightful freedom of opinion and expression and therefore, respectfully request that Malaysian authorities immediately cease all actions and pressure that violate these communications rights. We regret that Malaysia’s Sedition Act has been applied to justify this police raid and to arbitrarily and unjustifiably censor alternative views.

Malaysiakini, an award-winning independent online newspaper based in Malaysia, was raided by the Malaysian police on January 20, 2003. Four servers and 15 central processing units (CPUs) from its office were seized during the raid. The raid was triggered by a complaint to the police lodged by a youth wing affiliated with a ruling political party, which accused Malaysiakini of publishing a seditious letter. The letter published on January 9 was alleged to have questioned the “special rights” of the Malays in the country and therefore could cause racial disharmony.

Subsequent to the raid, the police interrogated Malaysiakini’s editor-in-chief and four senior editorial staff. They further requested the staff to identify the writer of the letter. The latter, however, denied the request so as to adhere to professional media ethics. Malaysiakini editor Steven Gan said that “the online daily's policy with regard to the letters forum is to encourage free and open discussion on controversial issues”. If convicted under the Sedition Act, the individuals involved in the case would be liable to a fine not exceeding RM 5,000 or imprisonment for up to three years, or both.

Two days after the raid, Malaysiakini received a letter of eviction order from its landlord "PC Suria," which is now wholly owned by Nascom, a government-backed enterprise formerly known as "PC Malaysia Bhd." According to the eviction order dated January 22, Malaysiakini was involved in "unlawful activities."

These events occurred only days after the recent Asia Regional Conference for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held on 13-15 January in Tokyo where representatives of the governments of 47 countries, 22 international organizations, 54 private sector entities and 116 non-governmental organizations (NGO) of the Asia-Pacific region gathered to develop a common understanding and vision of their roles and responsibilities in the information society. Moving towards free and balanced communication amid globalization was one of the priorities intensively discussed in the conference. The conference declaration called to maintain respect for the constitutional and other rights of all persons, including freedom of expression. As the Malaysian government was a party to the meeting and had dispatched official delegates to engage in the conference discussions, it is deeply disappointing that it immediately deviated from the vision and spirit of the information society with its attempt to silence Malaysiakini.

The vision of civil society is to evolve the global community into a truly communicative, just and peaceful one, grounded on respect for diversity and plurality. WSIS will be meaningless if we cannot agree to uphold communication rights--the fundamental human right to communicate, to access and disseminate information--as the touchstone of our information society. The raid on Malaysiakini acts to frustrate press freedom but further underscores the necessity of protecting communication rights.

We, the undersigned, reiterate that the securing and promotion of the freedom to communicate should be guided by, inter alia, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” During the regional conference on WSIS in Tokyo, a journalist from Malaysiakini nominated by Asia civil society participants to speak on their behalf, further highlighted these internationally recognized rights. Sadly enough, these rights were soon denied by the government of Malaysia with the raid.

We hereby respectfully request the government of Malaysia to refrain from exercising censorship in all forms in respect for fundamental human rights. We call upon it to take actions to secure and promote an open and free press rather than repressing journalists reporting on critical and sensitive issues.

It is absolutely unnecessary for the Malaysian authority to apply the Sedition Act against Malaysiakini. Sensitive issues should be resolved through constructive and rational dialogue and debate rather than censorship in any form.

We further call upon the Malaysian police to immediately return all seized items of Malaysiakini and to stop the interrogation of Malaysiakini journalists to coerce them to reveal the identity of the writer of the alleged seditious letter.


Related Website:
- Malaysiakini: http://www.malaysiakini.com
- Asian Civil Societies' Response to the WSIS: http://www.wsisasia.org

References:
- Statement Of NGOs At ”Wsis: The Asian Response” Meeting, Nov. 22 - 24 Bangkok, Thailand (Final version Dec. 8, 2002)

- Joint statement from Asia Civil Society Forum participants on World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), Dec. 13, 2002, Bangkok, Thailand

- Asia Pacific Regional Conference on the World Summit on the Information Society: Civil Society Observations and Response to the Tokyo Declaration, Jan. 15, 2003, Tokyo, Japan


This statement is endorsed by the following organizations and individuals:
1. Kim Jeong-woo (PatchA)
Korean Progressive Network, Jinbonet
South Korea
patcha@patcha.jinbo.net

2. Lee Min-a
BASE21 media activist, Student of Hankuk Univ. of Foreign Studies
South Korea
ledebut@korea.com

3. Jung-ran Lee
Hannam Times
South Korea
leeran81@hanmail.net

4. Choi Hwa-jin
The Honam Herald
South Korea
drum57@hanmail.net

5. Kim Young-sik
The Chosun World
South Korea
skyreporter@hanmail.net

6. Bae Hey-yun
Love, Light & Freedom
South Korea
bhyo326@dreamwiz.com

7. Alan Alegre
Foundation for Media Alternatives
Philippines
alalegre@fma.ph

8. Robert Sagun
Individual
Philippines
robsagun@consultant.com

9. Dr Wilasinee Phiphitkul
Faculty of Communication Arts Chulalongkorn University
Thiland
wilasinee.p@chula.ac.th

10. Gargi Sen
Organization:Magic Lantern Foundation
India
magiclf@vsnl.com

11. Anoop Sukumaran
Focus on the Global South
Thailand
anoop@focusweb.org

12. Chi-ting Serena CHUANG
Taiwan Association for Human Rights
Taiwan
fauves77@hotmail.com

13. Leelangi Wanasundera
Individual
Sri Lanka
leelangi@itmin.com

14. Chantal Peyer
Bread for All
Switzerland
peyer@bfa-ppp.ch

15. Supinya Klangnarong
Campaign for Popular Media Reform in Thaialnd,
Thai Volunteer Service Foundation.
Thailand
supinya40@yahoo.com, ngotvs@samarts.com

16. Cynthia Gabriel
SUARAM
Malaysia
wkpeng@pc.jaring.my

17. Adam Peake
Individual
Japan
ajp@glocom.ac.jp

18. Jaba S. Menon
Individual
India
jaba.menon@oneworld.net

19. Izumi Aizu
Individual
Japan
izumi@anr.org

20. Myoungjoon Kim
Individual
South Korea
LNP89@chol.com

21. Chat Garcia Ramilo
Association for Progressive Communications Women's
Networking Support Programme, (APC WNSP)
Philippines/Global
chat@apcwomen.org

22. Nobuo Sakiyama
Individual
Japan
sakichan@sakichan.org

23. Anthony de la Cruz
Individual
Philippines
tonycruz@fma.ph

24. Norbert Klein
Individual
Cambodia
nhklein@gmx.net

25. Koichiro SHINOHARA
BHN Association
Japan
shinohara@bhn.or.jp

26. Hamada Tadahisa
Japan Computer Access for Empowerment
Japan
taratta@jca.or.jp

27. Raijeli Nicole
Individual
Asia -Pacific
raijeli@isiswomen.org

28. Chien-san FENG
Taiwan's Association of Media Watch
Taiwan
jsfeng@nccu.edu.tw

29. Houth Ratanak
Open Forum of Cambodia
Cambodia
open@forum.org.kh

30. Kyon Hoi-seong
BASE21 media activist
South Korea
kanarchy@jinbo.net

31. INYAKU Tomoya
JCA-NET
Japan
tomo@jca.apc.org

32. Marie Claude Rideau
Individual
France
mcrideau@oreka.com

33. Kevin Li
Individual
Hong Kong, China
kevinysli@hotmail.com

34. Yeara Park
People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
South Korea
yeara@pspd.org

35. HAN Jae-kak
People's solidarity for Participatory Democracy(PSPD)
South Korea
newclk@pspd.org

36. Youngmi Yang
People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy(PSPD)
South Korea
pspdint@pspd.org

37. Jang Yoosik
People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
South Korea
jang@pspd.org

38. EunMi Kim
Individual
South Korea
eunmi@r3net.org

39. Kim Young Hong
Citizens' Action Network
South Korea
namu@mail.ww.or.kr

40. Izumi Yonezawa
Citizens Network against the Japanese Government bill "The Act for Protection of Personal Data"
Japan
izumi@nurs.or.jp

41. Bambang Soeprijanto
Individuial
Indonesia
soeprijanto_bambang@yahoo.com

42. Dini Widiastuti
ARTICLE 19
Asia
dini@article19.org

43. Toshi Ogura
JCA-NET
Japan
ogr@nsknet.or.jp

44. Ubonrat Siriyuvasak
Campaign for Popular Media Reform in Thaialnd,
Thailand
subonrat@chula.ac.th

45. CHAN Beng Seng
Documentation for Action Groups in Asia
Hong Kong, China
daga@daga.org.hk

46. Mutombo Kanyana
Regards Africains
Switzerland
kanyana@espaceweb.ch

47. Chun Eung Hwi
PeaceNet Korea
South Korea
ehchun@peacenet.or.kr

48. Robert Francis Garcia
Asian South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education
Philippines
bobgar@pacific.net.ph

49. Claude Almansi
ADISI Associazione di Diritto
Informatico della Svizzera Italiana
Switzerland
claude.almansi@bluewin.ch

50. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia)
Thailand/South Asia, Southeast Asia
info@forumasia.org



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