Friday 18 April 2008

Suppression of Democracy, Freedom of Speech. Ethnic and Racial Discrimination in Malaysia

The last edition of Makkal Osai printed on 16th April 2008,
now the people do not have a voice!

The Malaysian government has effectively closed down a popular newspaper catering to Tamil speaking ethnic minority Indians - a move the daily newspaper's news editor considered was punishment for its critical coverage of social and political issues.

The Tamil-language Makkal Osai, (People's Voice), received a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday 16th April 2008, stating its annual operating license (an oppressive permit which is held over the head of each and every printed publication in Malaysia, like the Sword of Damocles) would not be renewed, no reason was given said news editor B. R. Rajan.

Consequently there was no edition of Makkal Osai published today, 17th April 2008.

"It's very shocking. ... It's mostly because of the issues we covered. We go more on social issues ... That has caused some kind of anger to the ministry,'" he reportedly told The Associated Press.

A Home Ministry official, who declined to be identified, said it was Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar's decision not to renew the permit and so he could not comment. Syed Hamid nor any of his minions could not be reached.

Mr Rajan said: "The daily newspaper had given 'wide coverage' to opposition rallies and the Indian activists (Hindraf) who marshalled some 20,000 ethnic Indians to protest last November against racial discrimination in this Muslim Malay-majority country."

The paper has had repeated conflicts with the autocratic rule of the Malaysian government.

"Earlier this year, Makkal Osai received a 'small reminder' to tone down its coverage of the Indian protest movement", Rajan said.

Last year, the paper was told to suspend publication for a month after printing an blurred picture on its front page of Jesus Christ seemingly holding a cigarette in one hand and what may have been a can of beer in the other, this was 'deemed offensive' by the government in this multi-religious country where religion is regarded a sensitive political issue.

Mr Rajan said Makkal Osai, which employs over 100 people, would appeal to the Ministry concerned to reconsider its decision.

“Being journalists, we did our job by reported what had happened, the paper would have to be more careful if its operating license was renewed.”

The 27-year-old Makkal Osai competes directly with another Tamil Language daily Tamil Nesan which is linked to the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), and reportedly owned by Sami Vellu, an elderly former minister who was ousted in the recent general election, he is still president of MIC a party included in the Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition, but he has lost a lot of support; this cancellation of the printing permit for Makkal Osai may well be politically motivated, or perhaps a form of racism and oppression!

Ethnic Indians make up approximately 8 per cent of Malaysia's 27 million people.

News sources AP and Straits Times, Singapore, Malaysiakini, and others.

A fonte puro pura defluit aqua

- From a clear spring clear water flows

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