We call on all Malaysians concerned with the freedom of information and speech to stand up in support of a fellow Malaysian who has been writing “without fear or favour” on issues of public and national concern.

The charge against Raja Petra is in connection with a Post entitled “Let’s send the Altantuya murderers to hell” in which he raised pertinent questions on various facts of the case that are already within the domain of public knowledge. In our view the sedition charge is malicious and without merit. It is also politically motivated and aimed at silencing a principled and uncompromising voice speaking against the abuse of power, including those stemming from the highest level of government and authority.

We urge the Government to re-consider its action in pursuing what is being perceived in the country and internationally as blatantly selective and repressive persecution. The action not only runs counter to the Government’s expressed promotion of a democratic, informed and participatory society. It also smacks of a renewal of the tactics of fear and intimidation which were recently resoundingly rejected by the Malaysian electorate.

We are disappointed that, despite the Government’s rhetoric of learning from its past mistakes, it continues to rely on heavy handed authoritarian means to instill fear and to discourage its citizens from freely engaging in public discourse.

This action of the Government coming just a few days after World Press Freedom Day (which fell on May 3) especially makes a mockery of the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s expression of commitment to democratic and social reforms to promote a more open and transparent government.

We agree with other human rights advocates that the present Sedition Act – initially enacted by the British colonial authorities – should have no place in our democratic society. Unlike the law on defamation, one cannot defend himself/herself from a charge of sedition on the ground of truthfulness. In other words, messengers may be shot for simply uttering the truth. That the State is using its legal apparatus to charge Raja Petra for sedition instead of the aggrieved party resorting to civil defamation points to the need for thorough reform of our media laws. This is not a new demand but one which has been consistently raised by civil society and progressive political parties.

As civil society action groups, we call upon all political parties, non-government organizations and individuals to express their concern and to show solidarity with Raja Petra. All freedom loving Malaysians must impress on the Government the need to withdraw this obnoxious action against a conscientious writer and true Malaysian.

Finally, we urge fellow Malaysians to respond positively to any future appeals for donations to a Legal Fund properly constituted in defence of Raja Petra and to show our solidarity for a national cause aimed at protecting our freedom of speech.

Press Statement issued jointly by:

Dr Lim Teck Ghee,
Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI)

Ahirudin Attan
President, Interim Council
National Alliance of Bloggers

Wong Chin Huat
Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)

Gayathry V.
Executive Director
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)

Ser Choon Ing
Chairman of Civil Rights Committee
The KL and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

Ho Yock Lin
Empower (Pusat Janadaya)

Irene Xavier
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor

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