24 July 2008


Arrested blogger faces up to six years in jail and lawsuit for writing about murder case

Incident details

Raja Petra Kamarudin

web dissident(s)

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 23 July 2008 CPJ press release:

Malaysian blogger charged with criminal defamation

New York, July 23, 2008 - The Committee to Protect Journalists strongly condemns the recent arrest and criminal defamation charges filed by the Malaysian government against prominent blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, editor and founder of the Malaysia Today news Web site.

Raja Petra was arrested and charged on July 17 at police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur and later released on bail, according to local news reports. The three separate defamation charges brought by the attorney general's office stem from comments he made in a signed document he submitted mid-June to the high court regarding the murder trial of a Mongolian woman killed in 2006. The sworn statement implicated three prominent individuals connected with Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Najib Abdul Razak, including his wife and two military officials, in the murder. Raja Petra published the statement on his Web site and it was widely circulated online.

"CPJ is concerned that the criminal defamation charges against Raja Petra Kamarudin are intended to more widely suppress his outspoken criticism of prominent figures," said Bob Dietz, Asia program coordinator. "Jail sentences levied against commentators for engaging in public debate amount to censorship and threaten democratic society."

In an interview with CPJ, Raja Petra insisted on his innocence and said he had merely raised issues that the prosecution failed to address in court. "Clearly this is political persecution and has nothing to do with the law," he told CPJ. The popular blogger had reported frequently and critically for Malaysia Today on the controversial murder trial, which the government-influenced mainstream media has shied away from reporting.

He faces up to six years in prison, two years for each charge, if convicted in a trial scheduled to start on August 15. He is already awaiting an October trial on a separate sedition charge for writing about the same murder case.

The military officials, married couple Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Aziz Buyong and Lieutenant Colonel Norhayati Hassan, are also each seeking 1 million Malaysian ringgit (US$309,000) in damages and an injunction against Raja Petra and Malaysia Today from reporting further on the allegations, according to local media reports.

Malaysia Today is one of the leading news Web sites in Malaysia's vibrant and growing blogosphere, which has provided unprecedented space for critical news and views seldom reported in the government-influenced mainstream media. Raja Petra told CPJ that Malaysia Today now receives over 1.5 million unique readers per day, a larger readership than established pro-government newspapers.

On May 6, Raja Petra was charged under Malaysia's draconian Sedition Act and imprisoned for three days over his critical postings about the same murder trial. He refused to post bail after his arrest and was only released after he came under threat by two imprisoned police officials implicated in the murder trial, who were placed in his same cell at the Sungai Buloh jail in Kuala Lumpur, he told CPJ.

That trial will start on October 6. If convicted, he faces a possible 5,000 Malaysian ringgit (US$1,544) fine and three years in prison.

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.cpj.org
Updates the Raja Petra Kamarudin case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/95569


Committee to Protect Journalists
330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
info (@) cpj.org
Fax:+1 212 465 9568

IFEX members working in this country 1

More from Malaysia
  • Freedom on the Net 2017: Malaysia

    Several websites remain blocked for reporting on a billion dollar corruption scandal implicating Prime Minister Najib Razak, including the publishing platform Medium

  • Malaysia HRW Report: Events of 2016

    Malaysia's human rights situation continued to deteriorate in 2016, with human rights defenders, activists, political opposition figures, and journalists facing harassment and politically motivated prosecution. Those criticising the administration of Prime Minister Najib Razak or commenting on the government's handling of the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal have been particular targets.

  • Freedom of the Press 2016: Malaysia

    Reporting on the alleged misuse of the 1MDB state investment fund sparked criminal defamation proceedings against at least four news outlets, and two others were temporarily suspended.

More from Asia & Pacific


  • The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14

    Journalism in South Asia is far from an easy profession, as the 12th annual review of journalism in the region "The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14" portrays. But this year's report also tells the story of the courage of South Asia's journalists to defend press freedom and to ensure citizens' right to information and freedom of expression in the face of increasing challenges to the profession and personal safety.

  • THE STORIES WOMEN JOURNALISTS TELL: Women in Media in South Asia

    The report is the first created by the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) looking specifically at the experience of women journalists in the South Asia sub-region