MALAYSIA: Seizure of tabloid not linked to photo, says KL

Malaysian authorities deny that seizure of Harakah tabloid newspapers was caused by 'naughty' photographs of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi with actress Michelle Yeoh

Straits Times
Friday, January 5, 2007

Kuala Lumpur --- The Malaysian authorities have seized copies of a tabloid newspaper run by an opposition Islamic party, but denied the move was caused by the publication of a photograph that shows Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi with actress Michelle Yeoh.

The latest issue of Harakah features a front page photo of Datuk Seri Abdullah placing a hand on Miss Yeoh's bare shoulder during a gala dinner at a sailing tournament in Terengganu state last month.

Officers from the Internal Security Ministry have confiscated copies from retail outlets over the past week because the newspaper is supposed to be sold only to members of the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), the ministry's enforcement spokesman, Mr Zailani Hashim, said yesterday.

"The action has nothing to do with images published in the issue," Mr Zailani said. He rejected speculation by Harakah's editor that the government wants to prevent the photo from being seen.

A statement on Harakah's website said the photograph displayed Datuk Seri Abdullah's "naughty antics" with Yeoh, the Ipoh-born star whose international film credits include Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies.

PAS has often accused Datuk Seri Abdullah's moderate government of failing to uphold religious and moral standards in Malaysia, where nearly two-thirds of the 26 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims.

The party publishes 140,000 copies of Harakah twice a month. The paper's government-approved publication licence states it can only be sold to party members, but the rule is often not enforced stringently.