Malaysian bloggers, journalists brace for wider crackdown
AT least two bloggers, a journalist, and one opposition politician were arreste d under Malaysia's Internal Security Act (ISA) on September 12 in wha t media and activists are afraid may be the start of a wider crackdown ahead of an anticipated opposition push to gain control of parliament next week, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) said. SEAPA said in a statement that Malaysia's leading blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin , who is also a staunch government critic on his website "Malaysia Today," was the first to be arrested in this weekâs arrests. Journalist Tan Hoon Cheng who works Sin Chew Daily, a Chinese-language newspape r that had recently covered a controversial outburst from a ruling party member who called the ethnic Chinese community "squatters," was also reportedly arres ted, SEAPA said quoting reports from. Malaysiakini.com. Lawmaker Teresa Kok of the Chinese-based DAP and Deputy Chief Minister in Selan gor was also arrested under the ISA, SEAPA said. The draconian ISA law allows government to detain people without tri al. It is a preventive detention law currently enforced in Malaysia. SEAPA said that the Centr e for Independent Journalists (CIJ) has already issued an urgent appeal, as it reported that another blogger, Haris Ibrahim, was arrested. Ibrahim was rep ortedly credited with starting a "People's Parliament project," which monitors the Malaysian government. SEAPA said Malaysian media, oppositionists and activists are expressing fears t hat the Malaysian government may be planning more arrests. SEAPA said that CIJ sees the recent arrests as measures that âbear a disturbing resemblance to the period in the lead-up to the Operasi Lalang in 1987," where dozens of activists, artists, academics and politicians were detained. "Both incidents are similar in that it relates to ongoing political crisis with in (Malaysian ruling party) UMNO, but manifested as alleged racial tension by t he government," SEAPA quoting CIJ said. SEAPA fears that this weekâs arrests may be part of a wider campaign after last weekâs threat to suspend Malaysian newspapers the Sin Chew Daily, The Sun -- w hich is a free English-language daily, and Suara Keadilan which is published by the opposition. The group said that the CIJ and the Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WA MI) have sounded the alarm over a warning issued by government to the three new spapers over coverage of the same controversy for which journalist Tan was arre sted. "Political observers fear the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which was humiliated in March elections and is now threatened by the opposition's plans, was planning a repeat of an infamous 1987 crackdown," SEAPA said quoting news website Malaysiakini.com.
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