BY PETER BOYLE
Police raided the Kuala Lumpur office of malaysiakini.com, a progressive and independent web site, and seized computers on January 20. Ten hours later, while a protest vigil was being held outside the office, the site was up again, operating with borrowed equipment.
The police raid followed a complaint, lodged by the youth wing of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), about an allegedly "seditious" letter posted on the site.
UMNO Youth complained that the letter questioned the Malay people's "special privileges" and contained "false allegations" about the government's treatment of other ethnic groups and the indigenous Orang Asli.
Police tried to force Malaysiakini staff to disclose the identity of the letter writer. The raid is the latest in a series of government attempts to curtail freedom on the web. In December, police detained 10 Malaysians under the harsh Internal Security Act for spreading "terror rumours" on the web.
Set up in 1999, Malaysiakini is Malaysia's only independent online news daily. Unlike Malaysia's print and electronic media, it is not constrained by government requirements. The government has pledged there would be no control of internet content in line with the its move to create the Multimedia Super Corridor as Malaysia's answer to Silicon Valley.
Malaysiakini has gained a reputation for publishing news that the mainstream media in Malaysia normally blacks out or plays down. Editor-in-chief Steven Gan was a well-known social activist when he studied in Australia.
From Green Left Weekly, January 29, 2003.
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