Bloggers celebrate Press Freedom Day

Bloggers celebrate Press Freedom Day

 

raja petra candlelight vigil 070508 aic supporters

 

Update: Raja Petra: Bail posted, out tomorrow in Malaysiakini by Andrew Ong

 

breaking news

 

 

Malaysia Today news portal webmaster Raja Petra Kamarudin has agreed to post bail after meeting his wife Marina Lee Abdullah at the Sungai Buloh prison this morning. Meanwhile, some 150 people held a nearly two-hour long candlelight vigil outside the Sungai Buloh prison last night, calling for the charge against Raja Petra be dropped and that he be immediately released.

 

 

 

 

 

  

The crowd which began gathering from 9pm, comprised of individuals and several notable bloggers who chanted slogans calling for Raja Petra’s release and carried three large banners which read “Justice for ALL… tantuya”

 

 

raja petra candlelight vigil 070508 banner

 

 

 

 

 

The crowd which began gathering from 9pm, comprised of individuals and several notable bloggers who chanted slogans calling for Raja Petra’s release and carried three large banners which read “Justice for ALL… tantuya”

raja petra 080508 marina lee and lawyer j chandra 02

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marina appeared at the scene at about 10.15pm and addressed the crowd through a loud-hailer. Her voice was filled with emotions and she tried to hold back her tears as she thanked the crowd.

“I will always support Raja Petra. I hope that the two of us can see this through,” she said.

At about 10.45pm, the crowd dispersed on its own. Some 50 police personnel did not disturb the proceedings and were seen diligently ensuring a smooth traffic flow.

A similar vigil is expected to be held tonight at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur.

Update : “A legend in the making”, in Malaysiakini by Chan Kok Leong | May 6, 08 6:16pm

Highly controversial and largely influential blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin wrote himself into the annals of Malaysian history today when he became the first blogger to be charged under the Sedition Act 1948.

After a three-hour delay and a switch of courts, Raja Petra finally heard for the first time what he was being accused of.

raja petra court case 060508 petra arrestedClad in a light yellow shirt and blue jeans, the 58-year-old writer was charged under Section 4 (1) (c) for nine paragraphs of a story which appeared in Malaysia Today on April 25.

The article allegedly implied that Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his wife were involved in the killing of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Whether it was confusion or mere inefficiency, what took a just 30 minutes in court, after factoring in a 10-minute recess called by Justice Nurmala Salim, the entire matter consumed more than three hours.

During the morning session at Jalan Duta, some 100 bloggers, well-wishers and press hounds were treated to hourly briefings of how he has been victimized by the government.

The flow of listeners were constant and instead of a day of sombre which is normally associated when friends or family have clashes with the law, the gathering in the morning carried an air of festivity.

raja petra court case 060508 02 Journalists had a field day collecting quotes and photographs of the notable people who had turned up to see him charged.

Among the wakil rakyat who turned up to see him were Nurul Izzah Anwar, Tian Chua, Lim Kit Siang, Sallahuddin Ayub, Liew Chin Tong and Wan Azizah Ismail, who showed up at Petaling Jaya later.

Other notables include human rights lawyers Haris Ibrahim, Malik Imtiaz, bloggers Bernard Khoo, YL Chong, Yassim Salleh, Ahiruddin Attan and Nuraina Samad

Four other MPs – Karpal Singh, Gobind Singh, Lim Lip Eng and William Leong – made up his defence team alongside Jasvinderjit Singh, J Chandra and K Balaguru. The prosecution team only had Nordin Hassan.

‘He believes in his innocence’

After more than one-and-a-half hours of waiting, as the case was neither registered there nor were there any charge sheets available yet, the crowd continued their session at the cafeteria.

raja petra court case 060508 petra lockup At about 10.20am, one of Raja Petra’s lawyers Leong, informed everyone that the case had been moved to Petaling Jaya Sessions Court. What ensued was a convoy of cars, like those you see on the highway on their way to kenduris, headed towards the modest court in PJ State.

And if the authorities thought it would be over quickly, they must have been greatly disappointed. For the royal son of Selangor did not capitulate meekly. Instead of paying bail and keeping quiet until his trial date in October, Raja Petra chose the reverse.

In the court room, one of his lawyers had already told several reporters that his client would not pay bail because he believes in his innocence.

And as the news filtered out of the small Sessions Court in Petaling Jaya of his reluctance or inability to post bail, the crowd of well-wishers, bloggers and well-wishers gasped in astonishment at the thought that Raja Petra would be jailed until October.

If the authorities had expected to see him vilified and subdued they were sorely mistaken. For instead of seeing him subjugated, the former businessman is now a legend.

Clasped in handcuffs like a common criminal, photographers followed his every step as he was led in and out of the court after he did not post bail.

Well-wishers shocked

raja petra court case 060508 marina lee abdullah Meanwhile, outside the court room, Raja Petra’s wife Marina Lee Abdullah said: “This is a statement he wants to make. He feels that he has done nothing wrong and we don’t have the funds. If we do a campaign of RM1 a person and when we raise sufficient funds, we’ll take him out as soon as possible.”

During a quick lunch at a fastfood restaurant opposite the court, I watched and eavesdrop on several conversations around me. The well-wishers who were at the court moments earlier had converged here for the same reasons as I.

But more importantly was their conversations. As instead of focusing on the charge or the alleged sedition Raja Petra is accused of, their conversations understandably revolved around the injustice he has been meted out with.

Needless to say, more was made of the fact that he will now have to linger in jail for causing Barisan Nasional’s defeat in Selangor and four states. And more will be said about how he was targetted after an Umno Youth vice leader in Petaling Jaya Utara was said to have told a meeting that “we have to arrest Raja Petra”.

And this is how legends are made.

“Ruckus over RPK in Parliament” in Malaysiakini by Fauwaz Abdul Aziz | May 6, 08 6:49pm

Malaysia Today‘s webmaster Raja Petra Kamaruddin, charged with sedition and remanded in Sungai Buloh prison for refusing to post bail, was a central figure in a spate of debate in the Parliament today.

raja petra court case 060508 lim kit siang On one side was Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) who, in his speech debating on the royal address, criticised Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor for “abusing the laws” in allegedly getting Raja Petra to be charged for sedition.

Raja Petra, in his Internet posting entitled ‘Let’s send the Altantuya murderers to hell‘, had implicated Najib and Rosmah in the high-profile murder case of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian national.

Lim said the quick police action and subsequent prosecution smacked of an “orchestrated” effort and abuse of the laws and government machinery to punish Raja Petra.

“They (Najib and Rosmah) reserve the right to clear their names through the laws. So why have they used the government facilities to take action against Raja Petra Kamaruddin? This is the abuse of powers,” he said in his speech.

“There are other channels for the deputy prime minister and his family to take action against Raja Petra – to use civil action and litigation. Why choose sedition prosecution?” he asked.

“Why has the government machinery (in the form of the office of the) Attorney-General’s Chambers been used for this purpose? This is abuse of power! That is why we have to criticise this action against Raja Petra Kamaruddin in the harshest terms,” he added.

Barisan Nasional backbenchers, however, raised a ruckus and criticised the DAP veteran leader for making assumptions that Najib and Rosmah were behind the police action against Raja Petra.

“How sure are you that there was an abuse of power in the use of the Sedition Act against Raja Petra Kamaruddin? Do you have proof that the deputy prime minister had gotten the police take the action (against Raja Petra)?” asked Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (BN-Pasir Salak).

“Or perhaps this has nothing to do with what the deputy prime minister has done but is just an act by the authorities against someone who has done something in relation to the Sedition Act?” he added.

Lim rebutted by saying: “Perhaps the honourable member from Pasir Salak deems this is as a coincidence, but there are a lot of coincidences in Barisan Nasional.”

Oxford graduate under fire

Dr Puad Zarkashi (BN-Batu Pahat), meanwhile, called for Lim to be more “responsible” and refrain from speaking on a matter that was already in the purview of the court.

raja petra court case 060508 stumped Puad also said it was right for action to be taken against Raja Petra as he had “incited” people against a senior government leader. “Do you believe in what was written by Raja Petra Kamaruddin?” he asked.

Lim, however, said he did not want to be drawn into the debate on the merits, or otherwise, of the contents of Raja Petra’s article.

Other than urging Najib to initiate a civil suit to clear his name and that of his wife, Lim also called for a royal commission of inquiry to determine whether, and to what extent, government figures were involved in the said killing of Altantuya.

Citing Raja Petra’s article, Lim said among the many questions to be answered was whether attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail overstepped his boundaries as an officer of the court.

“(The government) should set up a royal commission of inquiry to investigate this so-called high-profile murder to clear the good name of this nation,” he said.

Lim earlier chastised Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau) who questioned him on the repetition of Raja Petra’s use of the word “hell”.

“Do you not agree that the only one to determine whether a person will go to heaven or hell is God and not for us to determine,” asked Khairy.

Lim, however, thundered back: “We are not talking of religion! This is an expression that those who murdered Altantuya should be punished to the full extent of the law! It’s not about going to heaven or hell.

“If even this one cannot understand, what is the point of graduating from Oxford? This is a disgrace to the university,” he said, upon which the whole house again descended into chaos as both sides went back to shouting at each other.

Journalists under probe

On a related issue, Lim questioned the police’s summoning of TheSun’s editors Terence Fernandez and R Nadeswaran to assist investigations into their reports on the Association of Wives of Assemblymen and Members of Parliament in Selangor (Balqis) controversy.

Fernandez and Nadeswaran had written a series of reports on the dissolution of Balqis – soon after the Pakatan Rakyat coalition won Selangor in the March 8 general election – and questions pertaining to the transfer of RM9.9 million of donations out of the association.

“Are they being investigated by the police? Is it because of their investigative journalism? We should be encouraging investigative journalism, not journalism that merely flatters,” said Lim.

“The ones who should be investigated is former (Selangor) Menteri Besar Mohd Khir Toyo and his wife… not Nadeswaran and Terence,” he added.

Update Raja Petra to be charged tomorrow

Malaysiakini May 5, 2008

breaking news Raja Petra Kamaruddin, the webmaster of news portal Malaysia Today, will be charged tomorrow for sedition at the Magistrates’ Court in the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex in Jalan Duta.

“I have been ordered to surrender at the Jalan Duta Magistrates Court at 9.30am … to be charged for sedition,” he said late this evening.
When contacted at 11.10pm, he told Malaysiakini that he would be going to court tomorrow.
According to Raja Petra, he received a call from the police’s Cybercrime Unit DSP Victor Sanjos to be present in court.
 
 Chan Kok Leong | May 1, 08 8:05pm in Malaysiakini

Some 150 bloggers got together in Subang today in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day to discuss the role of blogging in Malaysia.

Broken into two sessions – Fostering Civil Society and The Fifth Estate (Bloggers) as Agency for Change – the forum was aimed at looking into the role bloggers can play in society.

The first session had Rocky’s Bru blogger Ahiruddin Atan, former High Court judge Syed Ahmad Idid, University Malaya law lecturer Dr Azmi Sharom, former Asli director Dr Lim Teck Ghee and MalaysiaVotes.com editor Jacqueline Ann Surin.
 – – – —

In that respect, Lim pointed out that the blogosphere is not only crucial for commentaries but also as an atmosphere to foster the exchange and discussion of ideas.

Raja Petra presented a daunting future for the print media when he informed the floor that the signs were already there in countries like Indonesia and the United States.

“During the Vietnam war, four out of five Americans read newspapers while now only bum bloggers forum 010508 06two out of five Americans do,” said Raja Petra.

“In Indonesia, during the Suharto administration there were 12 million newspapers sold a day. Post-reformasi, the country only sells six million.

“Media baron Rupert Murdoch was quoted as saying that by 2030 there will be no newspapers as everything will be online. The SunStar and everything else is in a sunset industry,” said Raja Petra.

He reminded bloggers that their role should be to promote a two-party system whereby there is balance in the system.

“When that happens, the people will be the ones having the real power to decide who gets to be in government. This can only be done (by bloggers) by presenting information to the people so that they can make informed decisions,” said the MalaysiaToday chief.

Read all in Malaysiakini

Tun Mahathier Mohamad started blogging to day, 1st May 2008.

But MalaysiaToday chief DYMM Raja Petra was “questioned” by police and called to report at Bukit Aman at 4 PM. As Sat and Sunday are public holidays, this is a bad time for ordinary people to get legal and or courts’ help. But praise be to Allah, I heard that Tun’s PA arrived at about 4 PM. Now he is free after 2 hours grill.

Blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin was called in by the police to have his statement recorded over a recent internet posting pertaining to the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case.

After more than two hours, the blogger emerged at about 6.30pm and was greeted by Marina, reporters, fellow bloggers and supporters.

raja petra police questioning 020508 reporters

 ‘A form of harassment’

Meanwhile, Raja Petra, when asked if his posting contained seditious elements, replied: “The whole website (is seditious). The whole Malaysia Today (is seditious)”.

His lawyer, PKR treasurer and Selayang MP William Leong, said among the grounds for Raja Petra’s refusal to answer any questions was the police’s failure to show the police report which was said to have served the basis for the questioning.

Asked why Raja Petra was put through the ordeal, Leong said: “This is a form or harassment against bloggers.”

He also refused to reveal what were the questions posed by the police to the blogger.

The 58-year-old blogger is no stranger to controversy. Last November, he was grilled by the police for eight hours after former Selangor menteri besar Muhammad Muhd Taib filed a police report against him.

Taib, who is now regional and rural development minister, had claimed that Raja Petra published postings and articles that were disrespectful to the King and Islam.

Enter Mahathir, the blogger

Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched his own blog today, becoming the latest among many politicians who are crowding cyberspace to air their views.

The 81-year-old Mahathir, whose daughter Marina also blogs, was criticised for suppressing press freedoms during his 22-year tenure and clamped down on dissenting voices through strict media laws.

dr mahathir blog chedet dot com website 010508“He has been mulling over this for several weeks and he has now decided to go ahead with it,” Mahathir’s aide Sufi Yusoff told AFP.

In his introductory note on the blog, www.chedet.com, Mahathir said the site was “dedicated to publishing my writings as and when I am able to pen my thoughts and opinion.”

 

THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER, KUALA LUMPUR, May 3, Posted by kasee, 

“A case of the underdog taking on the bad guy”

If Raja Petra’s postings on Malaysia Today have a following in the country, it is not only because he writes without worrying about legal concepts of defamation or sedition, or that he combines expert story-telling with a dash of facts. It is also because many people in middle Malaysia identify with him ─ they share his concerns and suspicions. He refuses to be cowed by authority.

They cheer when he takes on the police and challenges them to arrest him, seeing him as the underdog waging battle against an institution which has been soiled with allegations of corruption and incompetence in recent years. They embrace him when he lashes out against racism and polarisation.

 

If they use the sledgehammer approach against him, it will appear that the whole force of the law is being used to silence one individual. If they do not do anything other than attempt to scare him into submission, they will lose further credibility. It could also embolden others to thumb their nose at the law or other institutions.

In any case, he is unfazed by the police attention. “The bottom line is, either they get off my back or they throw me in jail and throw away the key. I could not be bothered one bit what it is going to be. I am prepared for the worst.

  

 

If the government wants to have the respect of its citizens, it will have to earn it. The reservoir of goodwill which it built up over the decades since independence in 1957 is nearly empty, replaced by cynicism and distrust. Until then, Raja Petra and others will have the final and commanding word in any skirmish with the authorities.