The Malaysian government detained Nathaniel Tan under the Official Secrets Act for posting information on the Internet (www.jelas.info) the government considered sensitive.
His arrest was part of a government campaign to combat alleged to inaccurate information being spreading by bloggers.
Police arrested Tan and seized his computers. Tan also manages the website of the opposition National People’s Party. Police questioned Tan for four days of police.
Tan potentially faces a large fine and a mandatory one-year jail sentence if charged and found guilty under the OSA. The OSA has “vaguely worded definitions” of what constitutes an official secret.
Tan is well known in blogging community. He is noted for his criticism of government leaders. He had previously criticized minister Baharum and asked readers to “vote this guy out.” Baharum was investigated and cleared last week after allegations that he had received $1.6 million in bribes to release three convicted criminals.
Analysts see the government’s campaign as an attempt to instill fear and suppress attacks on national leaders, especially on Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi before of a general election expected later this year.
The ruling National Front coalition does not want to see a swing in voter support for the opposition party, which is promising more transparent government, affirmative action to help all Malaysians, and to end racially-discriminatory policies.
The Southeast Asian Press Alliance and Reporters without Borders both urged the government to respect human rights and restrain the police. “By arresting [Tan], the authorities are trying to intimidate Malaysian Internet users and get them to censor themselves,” SEAPA said in a statement. “Until now, they had limited themselves to threats and abusive prosecutions. Now they have gone further and adopted a more radical form of repression.”
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