In Malaysia, photographer beaten unconscious, reporter threatened

New York, November 15, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned for the safety of two journalists with the Tamil-language daily Malaysia Nanban. One was beaten and is now in a coma, and another received death threats after reporting on local Malaysian Tamil schools facing closure, according to Gayathry Venkiteswaran of the country’s Centre for Independent Journalism.

R. Raman, a photojournalistalso known as R. Kalaramu, was attacked by an unidentified group of men on November 2 outside his office in Johor Baru, the capital of the southern Malaysian state of Johor, and remained in a coma on Thursday after sustaining serious head injuries, Venkiteswaran told CPJ. Raman reported on problems facing schools in Tamil communities as well as political issues prior to the attack, she said. 

Raman’s colleague M. Nagarajan in the northern state of Kedeh received a phone call on Tuesday from an unidentified person threatening to kill him because of a report about a local Tamil school he had written on Monday, he told CPJ. The caller told him he was being targeted for the same reason as Raman, Nagarajan said. The reporter filed a complaint with the police.

“We urge authorities to conduct a thorough and timely investigation of both the attack and the threat,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “The Tamil community leadership must also make clear that acts of retribution against journalists will not be tolerated.”

The Tamil press is known for its coverage of issues that affect the Indian community, including access to education, that are sometimes critical of the community leadership, Venkiteswaran told CPJ. The Tamil newspaper Makkal Osai was closed for one month in August for publishing a cartoon of Jesus holding a can of beer, after the Malaysian Indian Congress, a Tamil political party of which the paper is known to be critical, called for strong action against them.