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Thousands of copies of "Suara Keadilan" and "Harakah" newspapers confiscated because they provided alternative coverage of conflict in Perak state

(CIJ/IFEX) - The following is a statement by the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), an interim member of IFEX:

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) condemns the confiscation of the opposition papers "Suara Keadilan" and "Harakah" by the Home Ministry.

According to the secretary of the Publication and Quranic Text Control Department, Che Din Yusoh, 4,000 copies of the newspapers were confiscated in a nationwide operation because they were not supposed to be sold in public places. However, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR, or the National Justice Party) Information Chief Tian Chua claimed 20,000 copies of the "Suara Keadilan" alone were seized. PKR is the publisher of "Suara Keadilan", while "Harakah" is published by the Islamic party, PAS.

The recent confiscation smacks of political control as the papers had been made available in public places since licenses were granted in early 2008. It lends credence to the suspicion that the confiscation is related to the political crisis in the state of Perak, where the federal ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, and the opposition pact, Pakatan Rakyat, are wrestling for control of the state.

Invoking the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), which authorizes confiscation in times of uncertainty, when the public actually deserves more and not less information on the political crisis, shows yet again that the law is a political instrument of the ruling federal coalition. The CIJ doubts that there is any strong basis for the actions except that the contents of the publications could allow people to obtain different views on the crisis, compared to those in the mainstream media.

The CIJ calls upon the government to end this practice of seizing publications, to return the copies to the publishers and to repeal the PPPA, which is an unjust law. During the last general election, the public demonstrated its rejection of official propaganda and the monopoly of expression and it would be useful for the ruling government to take that into serious consideration.

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