Reporters Without Borders welcomed the release today of blogger Syed Azidi Syed Abdul Aziz, nicknamed Kickdefella, who has been held in jail in Kuala Lumpur since 18 September.
The blogger was arrested on 17 September because of articles posted on his blog which were deemed to be “seditious”. On his release he told local media that he had been arrested for political reasons.
“This release is very good news”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “The arrest of Kickdefella was an act of intimidation on the part of the authorities. Their attempt to silence him failed and only stirred up criticism in the Malaysian blogosphere”, he said.
19.09 - Condemnation of a worrying wave of arrests
Two bloggers arrested in five days
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of blogger Syed Azidi Syed Abdul Aziz, nicknamed Kickdefella, on 17 September 2008 in the latest in a wave of arrests causing deep concern about free expression in the country.
A judge today decided to prolong his period in custody and transferred him from detention in Kota Bharu in the north-east of the country to Kuala Lumpur. Police have seized his computer and accused his of sedition over articles posted on his blog.
The same day, opposition member of parliament, Teresa Kok, was released following her arrest on 12 September under the Internal Security Act (ISA) that allows the arrest of citizens without explanation and their detention for one month.
“Malaysia is experiencing a wave of arrests that are worrying for freedom of expression. Four people have been arrested for criticism of the regime in the past five days,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“The good news of the release of Teresa Kok has unfortunately been overshadowed by the continued detention of Kickdefella, the second blogger to be arrested because of the content of his website”, it added.
“We condemn these arrests and call for the release of Kickdefella, as well as the blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, arrested under the ISA on 12 September.” The blogger, nicknamed RPK runs the site Malaysia Today.
Three police officers arrested Syed Azidi Syed Abdul Aziz seized his computer and accused him of sedition over articles posted on (http://kickdefella.wordpress.com), inciting Internet-users to fly the Malaysian flag upside down. The Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi accused bloggers echoing this symbol of “harming the established order” and adopting a “crude stance”.
The 38-year-old had been posting provocative articles about the government and since August 2008 has led a campaign on his blog condemning the country’s political and economic state. He is one of Malaysia’s most read bloggers.
Also on 12 September, journalist Tan Hoon Cheng, of the Chinese-language daily Sin Chew, was arrested under the same ISA. She was released the following day.
Malaysia is ranked 124th out of 168 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ world press freedom rankings. The government in 2007 said it planned to use the ISA to punish bloggers dealing with issues that were too sensitive. The Youth and Sports Minister, Azalina Othman, said it was a “proof of cowardice” to use the blogosphere to voice opinions. She said opposition activists were taking advantage of the fact that the interior ministry was busy “monitoring reports in the mainstream media”