Mar 23, 2009

PAS's Harakah and PKR's Suara Keadilan banned

In a move that appears to be geared towards handicapping the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) machinery ahead of the three by-elections on April 7, Suara Keadilan and Harakah have been banned for three months by the Home Ministry with immediate effect.

The party organs of Pas and PKR respectively were informed of the decision around 5pm this evening by fax with no reason given.

This effectively bars them from covering the Umno general assembly and the Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai by-elections.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's opposition said Tuesday that two of its newspapers have been banned for three months, in what they fear is the start of a media crackdown under incoming premier Najib Razak.

Malaysia is entering a period of intense political activity, with a leadership transition, a critical ruling party conference, and three high-profile by-elections all to take place in the next few weeks.

Two newspapers belonging to parties in the Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance have been targeted -- "Suara Keadilan" run by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's Keadilan party, and "Harakah" which belongs to the Islamic party PAS.

"We received a letter from the home ministry this afternoon saying Suara Keadilan has been banned for three months with immediate effect," said Keadilan spokesman Tian Chua.

"We fear that this action by the government is a prelude to a general clampdown on press freedom in Malaysia," he told AFP.

PAS secretary-general Kamaruddin Jaafar said the party would appeal against the decision.

"This is a violation of the freedom of media and a violation of a political party's right to have its official organ published freely," he said.

"This is another sign of a new era of repressions with Najib coming into power."

Najib is due to replace Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after the ruling party UMNO holds a general assembly this week.

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