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Malaysiakini Eviction Notice After Police Raid

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KUALA LUMPUR (AFP/Pacific Media Watch): A Malaysian internet newspaper being investigated for publishing an allegedly seditious letter said Friday it had been slapped with an eviction notice in another bid to shut it down, AFP reports.

The notice came after police raided Malaysiakini's office on Monday and seized all 19 computers used by the internet newspaper, which claims a daily readership of about 100,000.

Malaysiakini editor Steven Gan said landlord, PC Suria, in a letter Wednesday told the daily to leave by the end of February because it was involved in "unlawful" activities.

PC Suria, a computer products distributor, is wholly owned by government-backed enterprise NASCOM.

"I'm outraged by the eviction order. This is yet another attempt to try to shut Malaysiakini down. We believe that the authorities have put pressure on PC Suria to evict us," Gan said.

"This latest attack on Malaysiakini will be another splotch on Malaysia's image as an information technology hub."

Malaysiakini chief executive Premesh Chandran said the relocation would meant losses of around 100,000 ringgit (26,000 dollars) for the daily and at least two weeks of disruption to its operation.

"It will also mean a loss in subscription revenue, as well as loss in confidence among our readers and subscribers. We estimate this will set our earnings back by a further 40,000 ringgit at least," he said.

Efforts to contact the landlord have been unfruitful but Gan said Malaysiakini would fight the eviction.

"If they think that evicting us will cripple our operation, they are wrong," he said, urging readers and supporters to be patient as it dealt with the crisis.

Malaysiakini's problems began when the youth wing of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) complained to police that it had published a letter January 9 provoking racial hatred and likening UMNO Youth to the white-supremacist Ku Klux Klan in the United States.

Police raided Malaysiakini's premises five days later and took all the computers when Gan refused to reveal the author of the letter.

Gan and four of his editors were subsequently grilled by police. Gan has said police may charge him with sedition, under which he could be jailed three years.

Rights groups and opposition parties have criticised the police raid, saying it violated a government pledge not to censor the internet.

But the government said it had a right to defend the rights of the Malaysian people if Internet newspapers misbehaved.

Unlike mainstream media, Malaysiakini is free of licensing requirements because the government pledged there would be no control of Internet content, in line with the creation of the Multimedia Super Corridor, Malaysia's answer to Silicon Valley. str/en/pch Malaysia-media AFP 240933 GMT JAN 03



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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