MALAYSIA: Blogger rapped for posting insult to Islam
Internet censorship laws protect Malaysian blogger Jeff Ooi after his controversial discussion about Islam
The Straits Times
Saturday, October 9, 2004
By Carolyn Hong
Malaysia's most controversial blogger Jeff Ooi is making headlines in the mainstream media, but it is not the type of publicity he relishes.
The author, who identified himself as Anwar, wrote that it was wrong to compare Islam Hadhari and money politics in Umno to 'water and oil'. They were more 'like s**t and urine', he wrote.
The pressure on Mr Ooi was stepped up this week. Deputy Internal Security Minister Noh Omar warned that writers of insensitive comments on religious issues over the Internet could be detained without trial under the Internal Security Act.
'We have detected a website with unhealthy news. The operators have been warned to stop discussing religious is sues on the website or risk facing stern action,' he said.
Investigations have been started by the police and the Internet service provider, Mimos, is tracing the author of the offensive comments.
The handling of the controversy will be closely watched as it has a bearing on how Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who promised a more open style of democracy, puts his words into action.
International press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders condemned the response so far as 'a bid to intimidate' the blogger.
Energy, Water and Communications Minister Lim Keng Yaik defended Mr Ooi, saying the latter immediately stopped Anwar from posting another message after the offensive comments were made.
Mr Ooi, a business strategy analyst in an international telecommunications firm, told The Straits Times that his blog, Screenshots, focused on issues of governance.
The forum section is used occasionally by commentators making strong criticisms.
'I want to provoke thought but I can be firm if people hijack my blog topic,' he said, adding that he banned Anwar before his offensive posting sparked a public outcry.
This is not the first time that his blog, which discusses issues of religion, race relations and corporate governance that are rarely aired in the newspapers, has attracted strong opinions from commentators.
In recent months, he crossed swords with well-connected companies such as cable television firm Astro and mobile phone operator Maxis, as well as with New Straits Times group editor-in-chief Kalimullah Hassan.
In his Sunday column last week, Datuk Kalimullah wrote: 'This was not the first time that this Jeff Ooi allowed postings that hurt the feelings of others.
'His own writings smack of prejudices against certain ethnic groups...I feel the anger because I, too, like dozens of others, am a victim of the likes of Ooi.'
Mr Ooi defends his writing as being true to the nature of a blog which, being a personal journal, has room for the biases of its writer.
He said there was nothing personal in his criticisms and if names were mentioned, they were those of the main decision-makers who should be accountable for the shortcomings of their companies.
'It is to make sure that the buck stops there,' he said.
Not everyone will agree with his strategy but his forthright style has won him a wide readership, especially after the news website Malaysiakini began carrying a link to his blog in April last year.
What does Malaysiakini, which itself has had a brush with the law over its content, feel about the new episode?
Chief executive officer Premesh Chandran said: 'There is no issue. It has already been pointed out that the laws will be applied to the author of the posting, if he is traced. We don't think that Jeff Ooi has broken any law.'
The authorities have taken action in the past against the authors of Internet content, charging four persons in 1998 for spreading rumours via e-mail about an imminent riot by Indonesians.
Last week, a lecturer was arrested because of a series of hate e-mail messages against pop singer Siti Nurhaliza and several entertainment journalists.
Mr Ooi has no plans to give up his blog, which he said had become a passion for him. But he is considering vetting all messages before publication.
Date Posted: 10/9/2004