Sun, Aug 26, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Malaysian minister lashes out against `unwise' bloggers


Malaysia's information minister has lashed out at bloggers, comparing some online critics to off-key karaoke singers who think too highly of themselves.

Zainuddin Maidin's criticism underscores increasing attempts by the government to rein in bloggers, whom authorities accuse of spreading false or malicious rumors to create political and racial tensions.

Zainuddin -- whose ministry oversees the mainstream media and is responsible for ensuring the public obtains accurate news and information -- said irresponsible bloggers were similar to "out of tune" karaoke singers who take pleasure in hearing their own voices but wield no real public influence, the national news agency Bernama reported late on Friday.

"The unwise actions of some bloggers tarnish the name of professional bloggers who use technology to spread knowledge, academic discussion ... and other matters of interest to the society," Bernama quoted Zainuddin as saying.

Zainuddin's aides could not immediately be reached for comment.

Malaysia's blogging community was swift to slam react.

"Please leave the name calling behind," blogger Achmed Rauff wrote. "That is so childish for a man of your position."

Malaysian authorities have voiced concerns in recent months over blogs that could be racially inflammatory -- a dire allegation in this multiethnic nation that prides itself on harmony between the majority Malay Muslims and the minority Chinese and Indian communities, who are mainly Buddhists, Christians or Hindus.

Law Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz has said the government is drafting new laws to control bloggers and will not hesitate to use existing laws such as the Internal Security Act -- which allows for detention without trial -- against bloggers who insult Islam or stir sensitive topics.

Concerns about Internet freedom increased when police recently questioned prominent political writer Raja Petra Kamarudin and Nathaniel Tan, a webmaster for an opposition party, over postings on their sites.

Earlier this year, two Malaysian bloggers were sued by the government-linked New Straits Times daily for allegedly libelous postings about the newspaper.

Criticism of the government in the media is rare, and blogs have become a popular alternative.

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