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Online news site staff questioned by authorities over "cow's head protest" videos

(SEAPA/IFEX) - On 8 September 2009, Malaysian authorities grilled for eight hours the executive officer, editors and staff of the country's leading independent news site, Malaysiakini, in connection with news videos posted online of what has become known as the "cow's head protest".

The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) questioned at Malaysiakini's office in Bangsar Utama, Kuala Lumpur, the news site's chief executive officer Premesh Chandran, editors, journalists, video team members and one technical staff.

The news videos in question were about the "cow's head protest" in Shah Alam on 28 August and a press conference by Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on 2 September. Two related news stories were also posted online.

The MCMC deemed these videos as offensive and had asked Malaysiakini on 3 September to take them down. It explained that the news site violated the Communication and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 by uploading those two video clips. Malaysiakini has still not removed the videos.

Some eight MCMC officers, divided into three teams, simultaneously recorded statements from Malaysiakini staff.

Aside from Chandran, the following people were also questioned: journalists Rahmah Ghazali, Jimadie Shah Othman, Andrew Ong, cameraperson Amir Abdullah, editors K Kabilan, Nasharuddin Rahman, Fathi Aris Omar and video editors Shufiyan Shukur, Ng Kok Foong and Lydia Azizan.

Two other MCMC officers visited the website's server hosting company at its office in Jalan Kuchai Lama, Kuala Lumpur, where they interviewed the company's staff.

The company was also asked to provide technical details pertaining to Malaysiakini's video servers.

On 5 September, the MCMC had taken a statement from Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan.

The MCMC has asked for one more video team member, Mohd Kamal Ishak - who is on leave - for his statement to be recorded on 10 September.

"I was told by the MCMC officers that apart from this other camera person, they have wrapped up their investigations," said Gan.

He added that should Malaysiakini be charged in court, "we are ready to fight. We're not going to take down the two videos as we have not violated the law".

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