Malaysian press concerns after blogger’s arrest

A blogger was arrested by police in Malaysia and faces criminal proceedings for violating the country’s official secrets act after posting a link from his website.

Nathaniel Tan, 26, a web editor for Malaysia’s opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat party, was detained in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

Initial reports said he was arrested on suspicion that a photomontage posted to his blog – depicting the deputy prime minister dining with a political adviser allegedly involved in a murder case – was a violation of the country’s Communication and Multimedia Act.

Upon release from custody today Tan’s lawyer said police believed a post the blogger wrote included a link to a page accusing a deputy minister, Johari Baharum, of accepting bribes.

According to his blog – through which friends had mobilised a candlelit vigil in support of Tan during his spell in prison – despite Tan’s release proceedings are due to continue at a local high court on Wednesday.

Tan has been supported by journalists organisations including Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers, which labeled his detention “arbitrary”, and by editors across South East Asia.

Malaysia’s own Centre for Independent Journalism said the arrest “smacks of vengeance against bloggers and shows a total disregard for freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the constitution”.

South East Asian Press Aliance (SEAPA) reported: “Interestingly, on the same day Tan was remanded, national news agency Bernama reported that Johari had tasked the police to track down writers who ‘spread lies through websites’ – specifically those who direct criticisms against government leaders.”

The case is the latest in which authorities have sought to shutter the views of bloggers.

Two Malaysian bloggers are currently being sued by the country’s New Straits Times over criticisms of its news reporting, while another was arrested last week for posting an offensive photomontage, SEAPA said.

Tan’s case echoes a 2005 episode in which a blogger was arrested for breaching the Secrets Act by linking to publicly accessible state website documents.