Friday, September 12, 2008

Malaysia arrests blogger, probes 3 newspapers

Malaysia arrests blogger, probes 3 newspapers

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Malaysian police arrested a prominent blogger on Friday while authorities probed three newspapers, including a Chinese daily, in a major crackdown against dissent and racial hatred.

'Raja Petra has been arrested under the Internal Security Act,' a senior police officer told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Raja Petra's family confirmed the arrest.

The arrest under the ISA, which allows indefinite detention without trial, came days after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the government would use the law if needed.

Two weeks ago, the authorities pulled the plug on Raja Petra's popular news portal 'Malaysia Today' because it posted comments they said could incite the country's multi-racial society.

Racial tensions have mounted after a mid-ranking official of Abdullah's political party UMNO labelled ethnic Chinese as 'immigrants' and likened them to

American Jews who he said were hungry for power.

UMNO moved swiftly on Wednesday to quash the row by stripping the outspoken official of all party posts for three years.

The Home (Interior) Ministry ordered Sin Chew Daily, the Chinese daily which first reported the comments by the UMNO official, to explain or face suspension or its publishing licence revoked, the newspaper said on Friday.

It has one week to reply to the show cause letter, it said.

The ministry also issued similar show cause letters to the the Sun newspaper and Anwar Ibrahim's party organ, Suara Keadilan.

The Sun, an English-language daily, was singled out for allegedly 'manipulating and playing up numerous sensitive issues', domestic media said.

Suara Keadilan was hauled up after it published a report that Malaysia's police chief Musa Hassan, was paralysed after heart surgery, one of the editors said.

Musa has denied the claim.

Under the law, the home ministry can suspend or revoke the publications' annual permit if they fail to provide a satisfactory answer.

'We owe the responsibility to the society in general to ensure conflicts do not occur and anger is not prompted as a result of what we write about race, religion or even culture,' Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said late on Thursday.

(Reporting by Jalil Hamid, Editing by Bill Tarrant)

- Hemscott

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