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Malaysia 6 February 2003

News website refuses to leave its offices


The staff of said today they would not obey an order by their landlord, the firm PC Suria, to leave the premises. "The firm has no right to evict us," said chief editor Steve Gan, noting that the lease did not expire until December 2004. He has written to PC Suria’s lawyer saying they would not leave since they had not violated any terms of the lease. The eviction order was issued on 22 January.

01.27.2003 News website to be evicted from its offices

Reporters Without Borders said today it was appalled at plans to evict Malaysia’s Internet news website from its premises just days after police raided them, apparently for publishing criticism of the government, and warned that it threatened once again the country’s chief source of independent news.

The landlords, the firm PC Suria, which has ties to the government, issued an eviction order on 22 January for the website to move by the end of next month, saying it had been involved in "unlawful activities." Police had raided its offices on 20 January and seized all its 19 computers.

"This is yet another attempt to shut Malaysiakini down," said its chief editor, Steve Gan. "We believe the authorities have put pressure on PC Suria."

The website’s chief executive, Premesh Chandran, said moving offices would cost it about 100,000 ringgits ($26,000) and disrupt its activities for at least two weeks. "It will also mean a loss in subscription revenue, as well as loss of confidence among our readers and subscribers," he added.

Malysiakini has been unable to contact the landlords since receiving the eviction order, but Gan said that "if they think that evicting us will cripple our operation, they are wrong." He urged the website’s readers and supporters to be patient.

Malysiakini has rented offices in Bangsar Utama, near Kuala Lumpur, since December 2000 from PC Suria, a computer products distributor wholly owned by a government-backed firm, NASCOM. On 9 January, the website carried a letter which criticised the government’s granting of special rights to the country’s ethnic Malay majority and compared the ruling party’s youth wing to the racist US group the Ku Klux Klan.

The website, which started up in November 1999, gets 100,000 visitors a day and has won international prizes for its news coverage of a country where the media are tightly controlled, though the government has formally pledged not to restrict the website’s content.

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