Malaysian police raid online news site

The Malaysian police Monday seized 15 PCs and four servers worth RM150,000 (US$39,500) from the office of online news provider Malaysiakini.com, prompting angry reactions from both the online news daily's editor-in-chief and chief executive officer.

Malaysiakini, which was established in 1999, is considered by many Malaysians to be the country's only independent online news daily. Unlike the print and electronic media, Malaysiakini is free of licensing requirements for publishing news in the country because the government had pledged there would be no control and censorship of Internet content in line with the government's move to create the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) -- Malaysia's answer to Silicon Valley.

However, the Malaysian police, acting based on a police report lodged last Friday by the Youth wing of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party--the dominant component party in the country's ruling coalition known as the National Front--said that the machines were seized for purposes of "forensic examination."

The police said they were investigating the UMNO Youth report, which alleged that a letter written by a Malaysiakini reader contained "false allegations." The letter was published on Jan. 9 on Malaysiakini's website at http://www.malaysiakini.com.

In its police report, UMNO Youth claimed that the letter had questioned the special rights and privileges of the Malay race that are enshrined in the Constitution and that the letter also contained false allegations that the Malaysian government was unfair to other ethnic races in the country.

One of the country's national dailies, The New Straits Times, quoted UMNO Youth information chief Azimi Daim as saying at a press conference last Friday that the letter also accused the Malaysian government of neglecting the interests of the Orang Asli (the indigenous peoples or aboriginals).

In addition, Azimi said, the alleged letter had equated the UMNO Youth wing with the white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan of the U.S.

Azimi also said that Malaysiakini should have censored the letter and urged the Home Ministry to act against media organizations that failed to do so.

The 10-member police team led by Superintendent Mohd Kamaruddin Md Din, head of the police force's Bukit Aman computer crime unit, arrived unannounced at Malaysiakini's office at about 12:30 p.m. Monday local time. Several senior police officers held a 90-minute discussion with Malaysiakini's editor-in-chief Steven Gan and chief executive officer Premesh Chandran before moving into action.

The police team took four hours to record details of the staff and also compiled a list of items that were to be taken away.

The move has effectively shut down Malaysiakini's editorial operations pending the return of the equipment. However, emergency measures are being taken to continue publication online within 24 hours, said company officials.

At a press conference after the raid, Gan described the action as an excuse to shut down Malaysiakini, saying the letter that was published on the website was not seditious in nature but only "a comparative study based on facts."

"The government's pledge not to censor the Internet has been shot to pieces," Gan said.

"This is a malicious attempt by the authorities to shut down the website as the police insisted on taking away computers which are totally unrelated to their investigation," he added.

Malaysiakini's Chandran accused the police of acting unfairly in refusing to discuss any compromise.

"Their action is clearly not to investigate sedition but to disable our operations as the country's independent news provider. We know that this is an election year and that UMNO and the government feel that Malaysiakini is a threat," he said.

Malaysiakini's legal advisor R. Sivarasa said police action in seizing the computers was unreasonable and done in bad faith.

"The police know that the servers are necessary for the company's operations. We offered to give them a written undertaking that nothing in the servers would be altered or any evidence erased. However, this was brusquely refused," he said.

Premesh added that this rejection was unreasonable as the police report was lodged last week and if the editorial team had wanted to change anything stored in the server, they would have done so long before the police came yesterday.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
IDG News Service staff

IDG News Service staff

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Imou: At home with security

Modern living is all about functionality and security for everybody from the very young to the very old. With Imou anybody can enjoy smart life – the solution is at their fingertips.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?