Malaysian on­line news por­tal chief charged over videos

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

KUALA LUMPUR: The head of a pop­u­lar Malaysian in­de­pen­dent on­line news por­tal was charged Fri­day for air­ing what prose­cu­tors called “of­fen­sive” videos of a news con­fer­ence by a for­mer rul­ing party mem­ber, a move a rights group la­beled an at­tack on press free­dom.

Malaysi­akini’s ed­i­tor-in-chief Steven Gan was charged un­der the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Mul­ti­me­dia Act in a spe­cial cy­ber court for “up­load­ing of­fen­sive videos with the in­tent of an­noy­ing others,” his lawyer K.Shan­muga said.

The July 27 videos fea­ture a news con­fer­ence by Khairud­din Abu Has­san, a for­mer rul­ing party of­fi­cial, call­ing on At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mo­hamad Apandi Ali to quit over his al­legedly bias han­dling of in­ves­ti­ga­tions into in­debted state in­vest­ment fund 1MDB.

Gan said prose­cu­tors didn’t give any de­tails in court on why the videos were of­fen­sive.

“We shall prove in court that cov­er­ing the press con­fer­ence is not a crime. We were merely do­ing our job as jour­nal­ists,” Gan said. If found guilty, he could be fined or jailed up to a year.

Khairud­din wasn’t charged for his com­ments in the video. How­ever, he was charged last year for eco­nomic sab­o­tage af­ter he filed com­plaints with au­thor­i­ties abroad about al­leged wrong­do­ings in 1MDB.

Hu­man Rights Watch slammed the charge against Gan as a se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion of press free­dom and said it showed the “in­creas­ingly dic­ta­to­rial side” of Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak and his gov­ern­ment.

“By us­ing rights abus­ing laws, lu­di­crous ar­gu­ments and spe­cial cy­ber courts, Malaysia ap­pears to be aim­ing at shut­ting down the vi­brant and di­verse on­line news en­vi­ron­ment that has grown up be­cause of the gov­ern­ment’s con­trol and cen­sor­ship of the main­line print and TV me­dia,” the group’s deputy Asia di­rec­tor Phil Rober­son said in a state­ment.

Malaysi­akini, the coun­try’s first on­line news por­tal launched in 1999, is known for its crit­i­cism of the gov­ern­ment. On­line me­dia have since ex­panded and played a key role in help­ing the op­po­si­tion make un­prece­dented gains in the last two gen­eral elec­tions. The gov­ern­ment ear­lier pledged not to cen­sor the in­ter­net, but Na­jib has kept an iron grip since al­le­ga­tions of mas­sive fraud in the 1MDB fund erupted last year.

The 1MDB fund is at the cen­ter of in­ves­ti­ga­tions in the US and sev­eral other coun­tries amid al­le­ga­tions of a global em­bez­zle­ment and money-laun­der­ing scheme. Na­jib started the fund shortly af­ter tak­ing of­fice in 2009 to pro­mote eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment projects, but the fund ac­cu­mu­lated bil­lions in debt over the years.

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