Malaysia issues warnings to bloggers about slander


Mon, Jul 30, 2007 - Page 4

The Malaysian prime minister has issued a fresh warning to bloggers, as a key ruling party member described cyberspace as having "the law of the jungle," a report said yesterday.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, quoted by the Star in its online edition, said bloggers are as liable for defamation as publishers of printed materials.

"It is wrong for bloggers to go overboard, especially if they post slanderous articles against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong [the country's king] and Islam on the website," he was quoted as telling reporters.

"This is not something one can take lightly," Abdullah added.

His comments are the latest official warning to bloggers since a senior politician from the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) lodged a police report last Monday against a political website, Malaysia Today.

UMNO information chief Muhammad Muhammad Taib alleged that postings on the blog insulted Islam and Malaysia's king and contained elements that could cause racial tension.

The influential UMNO Youth deputy chief, Khairy Jamaluddin, was quoted yesterday as saying bloggers must realize they are not above the law.

Khairy said blogs had reached a point where "it looked like there are no laws in cyberspace except the laws of the jungle."

Quoted in the Star online edition, he said the party had no intention of asking the government to censor the Internet but wanted legal action taken against bloggers who spread lies and slander through cyberspace.

On Thursday an international media watchdog accused Malaysian authorities of trying to intimidate bloggers after a minister threatened to use harsh laws to control what they post.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said bloggers have managed "to create an unprecedented space for free expression in Malaysia," a country whose media is largely state-linked, and that the government response "seems to be repression."

Nazri Aziz, minister in the prime minister's department, warned that bloggers who offend could be charged under a law that allows for indefinite detention without trial.