New York, September 23, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the two-year jail term handed down to Malaysian blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin by the country’s home minister today.
Police arrested Raja Petra, who founded and edits the Malaysia Today Web site, on September 12 under the strict Internal Security Act, which allows for prolonged detention without trial, according to local and international news reports. Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, who signed the order for the two-year sentence, told journalists today that Raja Petra’s writings “ridiculed Islam” and posed a potential security threat, according to the reports. The minister, and not a judge, determines the duration of the sentence, which is renewable indefinitely under the security act, the reports said.
“A two-year jail term imposed at the government’s sole discretion against one of its known critics is cause for real concern,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator. “We call on the home minister to overturn this sentence immediately. No online commentator should be jailed because of the articles they have published.”
Raja Petra was taken to Kamunting, a detention center near Taiping town in northern Perak state at 11 a.m. today, according to the New Straits Times.
On the day of his arrest two other government critics—a journalist and a politician— were also arrested under the security act but were later released. Raja Petra was already facing charges for sedition and defamation related to articles he posted on his popular news blog.
Raja Petra is a supporter of opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim and has a long history of angering Malaysian authorities on his outspoken blog, which was blocked domestically on August 27, in contravention of a 1996 government pledge not to censor the Internet. He already faces several charges:
- On May 6 he was detained and charged under the Sedition Act for linking Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Najib Abdul Razak to the murder of a Mongolian interpreter. The charge carries a three-year prison sentence.
- He was also arrested and charged on July 17 when the attorney general’s office brought three criminal defamation charges against him for a sworn court statement he made in June implicating Najib’s wife and two military officials in the same murder. Each charge carries a potential two-year jail term.
- In a separate case on August 15, a court ordered Raja Petra to reveal sources for three articles that accused lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah of conspiring with police in relation to sodomy charges filed against Anwar, and remove the articles from his site, according to news reports. He declined.