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In an unprecedented move, the Malaysian government has ordered all of the country's 21 Internet service providers (ISPs) to block the controversial political blog Malaysia Today , report the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) and its Malaysian partner, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and local press reports.

According to independent news site, the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) on 26 August instructed ISPs to immediately block access to the popular blog - "the first time such a measure is used against a social and political site," said CIJ.

CPJ reports that the site was first blocked at 6 p.m., coinciding with Malaysia Today's plans to post real-time results of a special election, which opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim won in a landslide.

MCMC chief operating officer Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi admitted, "It is being blocked because we found that some of the comments on the website were insensitive, bordering on incitement."

Local news reports indicated that users were unable to access the site through three major ISPs: TMnet, Maxis and Time.

CIJ says the government has broken its promise not to censor the Internet - a commitment spelled out in its Multimedia Super Corridor 10-point Bill of Guarantees introduced in 1996.

Malaysia Today's founder and editor, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, is a well-known government critic who has come under heavy government harassment for his journalism. Currently he is facing sedition and defamation charges for posting reports that linked Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife to the murder of a Mongolian woman.

Even the ruling party's Khairy Jamaluddin, son-in-law of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi - and often a target on the Malaysia Today website - criticised the move. On his blog, he wrote: "No other website has caused me as much bad rep and deliberately destroyed my character as Raja Petra's Malaysia Today. Yet I cannot help disagreeing with the recent move... to block access to the site. Such blatant and crude employment of state power is inconsistent with the widening of democratic space."

Malaysia's blogosphere is full of critical news and views seldom reported in the government-influenced mainstream media. Malaysia Today now receives over 1.5 million unique readers per day, a larger readership than established pro-government newspapers.

Visit these links:
- CIJ:
- CPJ:
- IFEX Malaysia page:
- CIJ/SEAPA report on lack of protection for Malaysia's media professionals:
- Malaysia Today:
- Khairy's blog:
(3 September 2008)

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