A Malaysian blogger was charged after he made seditious claims against the deputy prime minister, implying that the latter was involved in the killing of a Mongolian woman. While he has not produced evidence of his claims, the plead innocent to the charge and refused to post bail. Critics have slammed the charge as a blow to freedom of speech.

Here’s the golden question – when is it freedom of speech? When is it seditious?

In Singapore, the only freedom of speech that the people enjoy is responsible freedom of speech. Primarily, it probably means that whatever the people say, it should not implicate anyone, especially people of importance. This is probably a necessity because Singapore is a small country and any potential unrest will throw the entire city-state into chaos.

Of course, not everyone observes the responsible part and usually get into trouble. In Singapore, it’s hard to challenge the system – and having just a lone fighter is never enough.

KUALA LUMPUR – A PROMINENT Malaysian blogger was charged Tuesday with sedition for allegedly implying the deputy prime minister was involved in the sensational killing of a young Mongolian woman.

Raja Petra Raja Kamaruddin, who has not denied that he linked Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak to the slayings, pleaded innocent to the charge, telling reporters later that he should have the right to hold the powerful accountable for wrongdoing.

He was taken to a detention center after he refused to post bail.

The court set the trial for Oct 6.

‘I am not posting bail. See you guys in October,’ Raja Petra told supporters before police took him away. ‘I will be out for Christmas. Don’t worry,’ he said as he embraced his teary-eyed wife and others.

Dozens of opposition members and bloggers had gathered to show support for Raja Petra outside the Kuala Lumpur magistrate’s court where he was charged.

Critics slammed the charge, which carries a maximum punishment of three years in jail, as a blow to freedom of speech.

‘Raja Petra has done a lot to raise people’s awareness of issues,’ said Nurul Izzah Anwar, an opposition member of Parliament and daughter of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

‘This is an attempt to clamp down on all sorts of freedom. We would have thought that after the elections, things would have changed,’ Ms Nurul Izzah said, referring to the huge losses the ruling National Front coalition suffered in the March 8 elections.

The sedition charge stems from an April 25 article titled ‘Let’s Send the Altantuya Murderers to Hell’ that Raja Petra posted on his popular Web site Malaysia Today.

Prosecutors say the article implies that Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, Ms Rosmah Mansoor, were involved in the 2006 killing in Malaysia of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28-year-old Mongolian interpreter.

Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Mr Najib, is charged with abetting the murder. Two policemen have been accused of killing her and destroying her body with explosives in a jungle clearing. The trial of the three men began in June 2007 and is under way.

The prosecution contends that Mr Abdul Razak had the woman killed because she pestered him for money after he ended their affair.

Prosecutors said in the written charge that Raja Petra ‘published a seditious article … which contains seditious sentences’.

It said the sentences include allegations that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ‘is covering up evidence implicating Mr Najib in the murder.’

Raja Petra said he was not worried by the sedition charge.

‘I am happy. I want to challenge the government. We bloggers have declared war on the government. We are not scared of the government. The government should be scared of us,’ he told reporters before going into the court.

‘Is it seditious to influence people against corrupt leaders? There is nothing seditious,’ he said. ‘Do you think I do not have evidence?’

Some of Malaysia’s most popular blogs offer strongly anti-government commentaries and present themselves as a substitute for mainstream media, which are controlled by or political parties or closely linked to them.

The government has taken many bloggers to court and accused them of spreading lies and undermining public stability.

Police questioned Raja Petra last July over articles he wrote that criticized the government.

In March a court ordered him to pay 4 million ringgit (S$1.7 million) to the state-run Universiti Utara Malaysia and its vice-chancellor for publishing a defamatory article. Raja Petra has refused to pay. — AP

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 6th May 2008



Reader's Comments

  1. Daily SG: 7 May 2008 « The Singapore Daily | May 7th, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    […] by The Singapore Daily on 7 May 2008 We Don’t Need No Regulation – Simply Jean: Blogger jailed – When is it freedom of speech? When is it seditious? – Yawning Bread: The pigeons are among us […]

  2. Ivan Chew | May 8th, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Hi, I respectfully disagree with this statement: “responsible freedom of speech. Primarily, it probably means that whatever the people say, it should not implicate anyone, especially people of importance.”

    I think anyone is free to say anything in Singapore. But anything we say should stand up to scrutiny. To me, responsible speech is about stating facts and/ or presenting one’s opinions that’s within the rule of law (e.g. libel and slander). For example, I read one of Gandhi’s books recently. He frequently published scathing opinions about British rule in India during his time. And he was fully prepared to be hauled to courts to be tried. He had the confidence that what he wrote was justified.

    Perhaps some people say they want Freedom of Speech but what they really mean is to be able to “Say anything without bearing the consequences”.

    Also, I believe it’s not so much WHAT we say, but the manner in which is was expressed. A simple rule, which I read somewhere, was that always attack ideas but not persons. Good advice, I think.

  3. dismantle ISA | May 8th, 2008 at 10:54 am

    http://www.singaporeangle.com/2008/04/contextualizing_the_mas_selama.html

    I commented under dismantle ISA.All MPs should take steps to question the ISA detainees. My fear is that with ISA around, more chances that bloggers will be taken in.

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    […] now, most people people would have known that this blogger got jailed, but what I couldn’t understand is why he is insisting on fasting. He might feel […]

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