We would like to bring to your attention the prevailing political situation in Malaysia, in particular with regards to the lack of freedom of speech, expression, association and assembly.
In Malaysia, most of the newspapers and all the television and radio stations are government owned. Those publications that are not government owned exist only at the pleasure of the government and require a Publishing Permit (PP) that is renewable yearly. The PP is not automatic and needs to be reapplied every year. There is also no guarantee that it would be renewed.
Those publications that breach the terms of this permit will get their permits prematurely cancelled or they may not be renewed when they lapse.
Foreign media also need government approval before their publications can be sold in Malaysia. Many times in the past, foreign publications have been banned by the government and, of late, Asiaweek and Far Eastern Economic Review have not received approval for their latest issues.
To counter the muzzling of the media and the tight restrictions imposed on the flow of information, the Internet has taken on the role of the alternative media. It is estimated that around 10% of the population receive their information through the Internet.
A month ago the Malaysian government started cracking down on "anti-government" Websites. These Websites have been labeled as traitors, tools of the West, and guilty of opposing the government. What the West calls "freedom of speech" the Malaysian government calls "treason".
On Saturday, 17 March 2001, eleven Websites critical of the government were closed down. All these eleven were hosted at Tripod. It is believed that the government will be communicating with many more Website operators or hosts in an attempt to close down all the "anti-government" Websites.
We write this letter to appeal to you not to buckle under the Malaysian government's pressure. The government will try to get you to close down our sites with the excuse that we are using the sites for illegal purposes. The only "illegal" act we have done is to speak out against corruption, oppression, injustice, and to call for a restoration of human rights, independence of the judiciary, and freedom of the press.
We urge you to visit one of our Websites, http://www.freeanwar.com, and see for yourself what we are doing. You will find that what we are doing is merely fighting for what the West takes for granted and what we in Malaysia are being denied.
The Internet is the last bastion of free speech in Malaysia. Support us in upholding this basic human right.
Raja Petra Kamarudin Director,
Free Anwar Campaign