In a move seen as by many as the beginning of a crackdown on dissent before the next general election, Malaysian Police recently detained a prominent blogger for eight hours. Umno, the right wing ruling political party, accused 57-year-old Raja Petra Karmudan of making statements critical of the government and Islam.
Raja Petra is the publisher of MalaysiaToday, a 3-year-old site that gets 340,000 visitors a day. This is second time the webmaster for the popular site has been grilled by police. In 2006, Malaysian police questioned the him about a post accusing government officials of selling state titles.
Raja Petra said that police also demanded that he reveal the identities of commenters in his blog.
"How am I to know who? We have 20,000 news items and five million comments from bloggers coming from 146 countries. Although 70% of these are comments from Malaysians, how are we to know who they are. I don't know who they are and neither do I want to know."
The webmaster also claimed that the ruling political party is behind many of these postings:
"These people are Umno 'cybertroopers', there are about 25 of them paid RM2,750 a month to raid and invade malaysia-today.net. They flood my website with about 500 to 600 unwanted and sensitive comments daily and I lose sleep every night cleaning this mess up by deleting them from my site."
Malaysian Law Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz said that the government would use security laws such as the Internal Security Act and the Sedition Act against bloggers who criticize the administration of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. The action taken against Raja Petra comes just eleven days after the webmaster for an opposition party website was detained by police.