Malaysian blogger arrested. When will we be next?
July 17, 2007
It is strongly suggested that we watch our neighbors. It may be only a matter of time till we suffer the same fate.
16 July 2007
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Blogger arrested under Official Secrets Act
A Malaysian blogger has been arrested under the Official Secrets
Act (OSA) for comments posted on his blog that pointed to a corrupt
internal security system in Malaysia.
SEAPA protests the detention of the 26-year-old blogger, Nathaniel
Tan, and shares the concerns of the Kuala Lumpur-based Centre for
Independent Journalism (CIJ) that the arrest may be symptomatic of
an emerging clampdown on online expression in Malaysia. This year
alone, two bloggers and one news site are being sued for defamation
and a task force has been set up to look at how existing laws can
be used to circumvent Malaysia’s Bill of Guarantee against Internet
On 13 July 2007, Tan, who is also a webmaster of the opposition
Parti Keadilan Rakyat, was taken from his office in Petaling Jaya,
Selangor, at 4:30 p.m. (local time) by three plainclothes
policemen, according to Tan’s colleagues. He was remanded for four
days in connection with Section 8 of the OSA on suspicion of
possessing “official secrets”. A link posted on his blog http://clicks.aweber.com/z/ct/?TdyP89w0.MDyTS8Xkke7pA connects to a website that accuses Deputy
Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum of accepting bribes in
exchange for the release of people detained under Malaysia’s
Emergency Ordinance, a law dealing with internal security that
allows for detention without trial.
Johari had been the subject of an official investigation, which
cleared him of the bribery allegations on 12 July.
Interestingly, on the same day Tan was remanded, national news
agency Bernama reported that Johari had tasked the police to track
down writers who “spread lies through websites” – specifically
those who direct criticisms against government leaders.
“The deputy minister’s instruction smacks of vengeance against
bloggers and shows total disregard for freedom of speech and
expression guaranteed under the Constitution,” CIJ said in a 15
July statement calling for Tan’s release (
If found guilty of violating the OSA, Tan could face one to seven
Echoing CIJ’s call, local human rights group Suaram said the police
need not have arrested Tan as the Criminal Procedure Code allows
them to summon people for questioning. In a 14 July release, Suaram
said the police action was done “in bad faith” as the arresting
officers did not identify themselves as the police, nor inform Tan
that he was being arrested. Initially, Tan was also not allowed
access to his lawyer.
Tan’s lawyer, R Sivarasa, who is also the opposition party’s
vice-president, condemns the detention as “politically motivated”
and “purely an act of oppression.”
“The remand serves no purpose except to put him under duress. He
has given his full cooperation; they have taken documents, CD-Roms
and computers . . . This is a ‘fishing’ expedition. There is
clearly another agenda behind this,” he said on 14 July after the
hearing for Tan’s remand.
Tan, who blogs about social and political issues, is the second
blogger to face official action within three days. On 10 July, the
Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) launched
an investigation into Tian Chua, a well-known activist and Tan’s
senior in the opposition party, for his photomontage on
http://clicks.aweber.com/z/ct/?w9nyrcXkrvZ9DhHA0rx34w that alluded to the ongoing trial of a
high-profiled murder of a Mongolian, which implicated an elite
police unit, bearing repercussions to the upper political echelons.
A case similar to Tan’s happened in July 2005, when a website owner
had to remove the links to another website that contained police
reports and internal police communications after he was warned that
he could be charged under the OSA, although none of the documents
was marked secret.
Meanwhile, independent news site “Malaysiakini” is being sued by
the chief minister of the state of Sarawak, Abdul Taib Mahmud, over
articles alleging him and his family of corruption, while bloggers
Jeff Ooi and Ahirudin Attan are being sued by a major
government-associated news group, the New Straits Times Press, and
its top executives over articles that called into question the
group’s journalism ethics.
From a law that was originally meant to protect Malaysian military
secrets from foreign agents, the OSA has undergone amendments since
1987. The definition of an “official secret” has since gone beyond
military concerns and now even covers records of Cabinet decisions,
deliberation and meetings.
The law is open to abuse and, as Tan’s arrest has demonstrated, is
often invoked to violate Malaysians’ constitutionally guaranteed
rights to free expression.
Most troublingly, as human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz wrote in his
blog ( http://clicks.aweber.com/z/ct/?mwkRv7l2D0WkmIf7ioynuA ): “The OSA in its current
form allows for a government to administer this country covertly
and in defiance of the accountability and transparency that is
crucial to democratic process.”
Southeast Asian Press Alliance.
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