The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities in Kuala Lumpur to drop a criminal charge against blogger Irwan Abdul Rahman. He was charged on 2 September with “intent to hurt” in connection with a satirical entry on his blog, nose4news, that made fun of Malaysia’s state-run power company Tenaga, news accounts said.
Irwan’s article, “TNB to sue WWF over Earth Hour,” joked that Tenaga might take legal action against the World Wildlife Fund’s annual energy-saving initiative.
“Because Malaysia’s traditional media face severe restrictions, the country’s online community has filled a valuable role,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Irwan Abdul Rahman is guilty of nothing more than poking fun at a powerful state-run entity. That’s exactly the role a satirical journalist should play in a society that considers itself free and modern. The Sessions Court hearing his case should dismiss this charge immediately.”
Irwan, who is also lifestyle editor for the Malay Mail newspaper, could face up to a year in prison and a fine of 50,000 ringgit (US$16,000) if found guilty under the charge, which is part of the Multimedia and Communications Act of 1998, according to news reports. He deleted the Tenaga post from his blog after the criminal complaint was made.
Beginning in 1996, the Malaysian government pledged not to censor online content as part of a campaign to promote its information technology sector. Online news sites and blogs, while operating with relative freedom in Malaysia’s otherwise repressive press climate, have still faced legal harassment at times from officials, individuals, and corporations, CPJ research has shown.
CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.