Raja Petra locked up for two years

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 10:54 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, civil rights, Freedom of speech, malaysia, Press freedom | 2 Comments

Raja Petra Kamarudin, a Malaysian blogger and editor of Malaysia Today, has been detained for two years without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Raja Petra is supposed to have insulted islam. He is going to be sent to Kamunting Detention Center today. A protest rally calling for abolition of the Internal Security Act will take place in Kuala Lumpur at 8 p.m. local time.

Baring in mind that the Malaysian government have a notorious record on harassing bloggers, the accusation of “insulting islam” must be regarded as an excuse to get rid of a political dissident. Religions, islam included, cannot be insulted because they stand above any form of insult. Any religion is god’s word for a believer but totally indifferent for a non-believer. Alas, no insult can possibly take place.

Maybe Malaysia will some day turn in to be a country with something resembling democracy and a civil society. The present corrupt government should be replaced in order to make that happen. Raja Petra and other political prisoners must be immediately released.

The show is about to begin

Monday, September 15, 2008 at 19:11 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, Election, Freedom of speech, Politics, USA | Leave a comment
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A quick look at Sherry Whitstine’s blog makes Sarah Palin look like a bleeding heart liberal. That puts the Wasilla blogger even further away from my values than Ms. Palin is. However, that does not change what I have always believed: I strongly disagree with you but I would go to far lengths in order to defend your right to disagree with me.

Displaying Sarah Palin exactly as a bleeding heart liberal seems to be much of a mission of Sherry Whitstine’s blog. In her so far latest post she throws the following at the Alaska governor:

Where’s the good  and positive fruit Sarah?  Sarah has produced nothing that resembles a good faithful conservative. She’s not a small government gal,  She has shown NO high ethical standard of duty to the state or community. Sarah’s  legacy is vindictiveness, obstructionist and hatred for anyone who may appear to have another answer. You are honored and praised if you are in agreement – You are demonized and minimized if you do not agree.

That I can relate to up to an amount. As far as “Sarah’s legacy” is concerned, I would call it an accurate description. As for most other content of the blog, I respectfully beg to disagree but I would defend the author’s right to make her case.

If it is true what I read in NYT that Sherry received a call from the governor’s assistant Ivy Frye four mounths ago saying: “You should be ashamed! Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!”, then I would say that I am worried about John McCain: how could he have a judgement bad enough to pick a running mate like that?

I do assume senator McCain was aware of governor Palin’s background. Because if he was not, how could anybody trust him to make adequate decisions based on the intelligence he would have access to as a president if he is unable to make a simple background research about his own VP?

While the presidential campaigns have been extraordinary so far, I have a hunch that the show is just about to begin. I have no idea what the dirt departments of each party and candidate are going to produce during these remaining weeks. I am going to keep an eye on this entertainment although not full time. There is the small detail of casting a vote myself on 26 October on a ballot where I, unlike the US election, am eligible to vote. And I have not made up my mind yet.

By the way, I enjoyed reading Emer’s post about the American presidential election although I did not agree to 100 %. Close enough, though.

Olympic mouth-gag

Thursday, August 7, 2008 at 20:31 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, Freedom of speech, Journalism, Press freedom | 2 Comments
Tags: ,

The IOC has issued what they call Blogging guidelines for the Olympic games (pdf file here, via Barbara). It is a substantial set of very restrictive rules for blogging during the Olympics by Accredited Persons at the Games. It could be best described as a mouth-gag, albeit practically impossible to impose.

At the introduction of the 13 paragraph mouth-gag rules there is a sentence I strongly disagree with:

The IOC considers blogging, in accordance with these Guidelines, as a legitimate form of
personal expression and not as a form of journalism.

That may very well apply for some blogs and bloggers but certainly not all of them. A blog of a journalist, either free lance or affiliated, can include journalistic personal expression or even consist of nothing else but. In that case the blog in question is indeed a platform of journalistic activities.

Many of us, Yours Truly included, publish in our personal blogs some of the material that did not fit in a story published by a main stream media outlet. The content has thus been aqcuired as a journalist and it stays as a jornalistic statement regardless of the media where it appeared. In other words, whether or not blogging is to be regarded as journalism does not depend of the blog format per se but of the status of the blogger and the nature of the contents.

Alas, the restriction imposed to accrediated journalists by the IOC must be regarded as a pathetic attempt to violate the freedom of press. While the so called guidelines also apply to Olympic athletes and there are detailed restrictions about covering Olympic events above the personal experience, it must also be regarded as violating freedom of speech. No interviews or just references to statements of fellow athletes are allowed. There are also extensive limitations to images published and “moving images”, as they call it, are totally banned.

Clauses of commercial material are disputable. If interpreted strictly, the mouth-gag rules could be understood to ban Google Ads in a blog, just to mention one wierd example.

As I mentioned, these so called guidelines are practically impossible to impose, both legally and technically. Dispite the Great Firewall of China, critical contents is leaking out all the time.

Alberta premier threatens to sue local blogger

Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 4:53 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, Canada, Freedom of speech, internet, Legal | 1 Comment
Tags: , ,

Dave Cournoyer is a 24 year old student in University of Alberta. He is also a political blogger affiliated to Alberta Liberals. Dave’s blog Daveberta.ca has a tagline: “alberta politics and other assorted goodies”.

In April 2007, four months after Progressive Conservative leader Edward Stelmach became the premier of Alberta, Dave bought the domain edstelmach.ca which was unregistered at the time. Dave paid 14 Canadian dollars for the registration after which the domain became his property. The CA domain name selection guidelines do not limit the amount of domains registered by one person and limitations on selecting the domain name only apply for registered trademarks.

Dave writes about his usage of the domain:

For the majority of the time I have owned edstelmach.ca, I have had the domain name forward to this blog. A week before I received the letter from Premier Stelmach’s lawyer, I changed the forwarding to the wikipedia biography of another Alberta Premier (who also probably would have not thought to register his domain name).

The other premier was Harry Strom who served as premier between 1968 and 197. He was the last Alberta premier from the Social Credit Party of Alberta.

Rather than making a phone call or sending an e-mail to Dave, premier Stelmach had a high rated law firm, Walsh Wilkins Creighton LLP, send him a letter and threaten him with a lawsuite unless he would

(a) make arrangements with your service provider by December 21, 2007, to
ensure that the Website no longer forwards to the 810g; and
(b) make arrangements to with your service provider and/or registrar to have
the Website registered in our client’s name.

The letter, signed by Tyler S Shandro, suggests that Dave has registered the domain “in bad faith”. Dave is also accused for causing premier Stelmach’s image to suffer and having interfered with his personality, image and name.

What really seems to have made the good premier’s lawyers go bananas are the modest Google ads at Dave’s blog:

Fourth, the 810g is signed up for an advertising program called “Ads by Google”, from
which you receive an income through Google.com’s AdSense program, in which
advertisements are matched to your site’s content, and you earn money. You have
therefore knowingly made a commercial use of our client’s name without his consent.
This constitutes an invasion and impairment of our client’s exclusive right to market his
personality. In which case, our client is entitled to the amount he would reasonably have
received in the market for the permission to use his name.

In an interview for the CBC Dave tells that the Google ads generate about 20 Canadian dollars a month in revenue.

Dave is not going to give up easily:

Though I am still surprised that the +150 staffed Public Affairs Bureau failed to complete the simple task of registering a $14.00 domain name, I am even more surprised that Premier Ed Stelmach’s first reaction in this situation was to threaten to sue an 24-year old blogger and debt ridden University of Alberta student. As a born and bred Albertan, I do not take well to threats from politicians. Therefore I will be seeking advice from legal counsel on how to proceed with this threat.

I am not going to state an opinion about the legal merits of premier Ed Stelmach’s case. My advise to the premier is that he should urgently start thinking about damage control instead of insisting to litigate. Messing with bloggers has seldom payed out. Mr Stelmach has already shot his own foot for far more than 14 dollars and it can only get worse unless he backs off.

Vietnam censors blogs

Wednesday, December 26, 2007 at 14:51 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, Media | 2 Comments

The communist government of Vietnam plans to censor the Vietnamese blogosphere, AFP reports. According to a state media report released today, blogs must be controlled “to prevent the spread of subversive and sexually explicit content”.

Referring to anti-Chinese protests over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, Nguyen The Ky, head of the Press Management and Publishing Bureau, said in a statement reported by Than Nien News:

“It’s all right when some bloggers have recently showed their patriotism, posting opinions about the Paracels-Spratly Archipelago on their weblogs.

But some have sparked protests, causing public disorder and affecting the country’s foreign affairs. It’s impossible to control the internet, so I think we should bolster technical security measures in addition to creating regulations.”

Than Nien News also quotes Do Quy Doan, deputy minister for Information and Communications, as saying in a national media conference in Hanoi on Monday:

Controlling weblogs is about developing them in accordance with the law, not forbid-ding them. We should provide guidelines that help people know what type of information they can upload online.

Bloggers will have to be responsible for not only their uploaded information but also information they access. Once we have obvious regulations, I think no one will be able to supervise weblogs better than the bloggers themselves.

It would no doubt be convenient for any government, let alone an authoritarian communist regime, if blogs only posted what is sanctioned by the government. That would of course make blogs as such obsolete. The Vietnamese government already controls what is published in the traditional media. Blogging is about increasing freedom of speech which is not what the Vietnamese government wants.

It would be interesting to learn what the deputy minister had in mind when he said that bloggers should “be responsible for not only their uploaded information but also information they access”. I for one, have access to all the information and indeed dis-information in the Internet but I refuse to take responsibility of anything other than my own posts.

Blogs have been around in Vietnam for a relatively short time. Not only the government is confused about the new method of expressing opinion on line. The bloggers themselves and the main stream media also seem to be in the process of learning how to cope with the new media. Chao-Vietnam accounts for a number of blog wars which very much resemble the disputes common in the western blogosphere for a few years ago.

In a related article, 4DM reports that the Vietnamese government are planning to allow privately owned media publications in addition to the current state owned media. On the surface this may sound like increased press freedom but given the plan to limit freedom of speech in the blogs, one has serious doubts about how free the private media could be. By definiton, freedom of speech and a communist government do not go together.

WP blocked in Turkey

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 at 22:06 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, WordPress | 1 Comment

This post can not be seen in Turkey at the moment, nor any other post published at WordPress.com. Matt publishes a letter he received from two lawyers in Istanbul, Kerim Kalkan and Ceyhun Gökdoğan, representing islam creationist and holocaust denier Adnan Oktar. The lawyers write that all of WordPress.com has been blocked in Turkey by order of Gaziosmanpasa Civil Court of First Instance.

The reason of the measure seems to be this blog and others allegedly created at WordPress.com and elsewhere by Edip Yuksel. The lawyers claim that they contacted WordPress.com on several occasions before seeking the court order:

We have applied to you to remove the unlawful statements regarding my client Mr. Adnan Oktar (who is the author of the books written under the pen name Harun Yahya) in your blogs. The number of our attempts to inform and warn you regarding these defamation blogs must have been at least twenty, many times through your support page, a couple of times to your legal department and we even sent a regular mail to Mr. Matt Mullenweg. Most of our attempts were unanswered.

Since I do not understand a word of Turkish I am in no position to judge whether or not the targeted blog (or this one or this one for that matter) are defamatory or not as the lawyers suggest. The little I have learned about the ideas of their client Mr. Adnan Oktar does not motivate holding a high opinion about him. In fact, I find his ideas most disgusting.

Defamatory or not, blocking a large blogging platform because of a handful of blogs is out of every proportion. This incident reminds me of the Indian government’s ill-adviced operation last year to censor all blogs hosted by Blogspot.com. A number of tools and proxy servers were set up to provide access to the blogs.

Since WordPress.com is far from the only, albeit a very large, free blogging platform in the World, this attempt of censorship is a failure from the very beginning. Trying to shut up a million plus bloggers does certainly not promote Turkey’s bid to integrate with EU. Not that I would have given it much hope anyway.

Edit: The lawyers finish their letter to Matt as follows:


Gosh, do they not know that screaming is extremely impolite? I guess that makes this blog their target as well. I am going to write about Adnan Oktar whatever I like although I am not in the least interested in him. And I am certainly going to oppose any demands to close my blog.

Malaysian government shuts up bloggers

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 at 21:15 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, malaysia, Press freedom | 5 Comments

The government controlled Malaysian news agency Bernama writes (via Susan Loone) about the government’s plan to take “tough action against web bloggers who write on sensitive issues which include insulting the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Islam”:

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the government would not hesitate to use the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 121b of the Penal Code against these bloggers.

He said the government had exercised restraint in the matter for a long time and the time had come for it to act according to those laws.

“I want to issue a warning that the time has come for us to take action against them (bloggers who make disparaging statements). We have the right and we will do it. We have been very patient,” he said when winding up debate on the Electronic Government Activities Bill 2007 in the Dewan Negara here. The bill was passed.

As much of the main stream media in Malaysia is under government control there is not much of press freedom as we understand it in the country. Blogs are the only source that could provide a somewhat credible and critical coverage of news and current events in the country. This explains the government’s eagerness to get at critical bloggers.

The owner of the independent news site Malaysia Today, Raja Petra, was taken in for questioning at a police station on Wednesday and released after eight hours. He was faced with accusations that articles and comments posted on his website “insulted the Yang diPertuan Agong and Islam”. Insulting the monarch and religion is a standard phrase commonly used to describe critical web contents.

As Bernama reports, alleged insults of the monarch and islam were also quoted by the coalition senator Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib, who filed the compalint against Malaysia Today. Berasa quotes the senator as saying:

“The liberal writing on the portal can cause young minds to think that there are no rules and sensitivities governing articles and that anyone can write on any matter in the name of individual freedom,” he said.

“At a time when the government is introducing the system of electronic government, there are unhealthy developments in the form of publications on the web such as this, articles which can be read not only by our society but also the whole world and anyone for that matter, even children,” he added.

Anyone writing “on any matter in the name of individual freedom” is called freedom of speech elsewhere, senator. It must be a pain in his senatorial ass that the whole World gets to read this “liberal writing”. It would be so much more comfortable if only one official truth was spread around the World from Malaysia.

This is why the Malaysian government is doing their best to shut up critical bloggers. Which of course will only put lacking press freedom and freedom of speech in Malaysia on focus but I guess the government is unable to understand this.

Edit: Oh dear! It looks like quite a lot of good comments intended to this post have ended up here. I have no idea why this happened. I can just refer to read the comments there.

Nat Tan released on bail

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 6:04 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, Legal, malaysia | Leave a comment

On Monday I wrote about Malaysian blogger Nat Tan who was arrested on Friday with charges under Official Secrets Act. The “secret” Nat allegedly disclosed seems to be public knowledge in Malaysia: the government has a poor record of fighting crime.

Now I learn via Susan Loone that Nat Tan was released on bail yesterday. He is under obligation to appear at the Commercial Crime Division in Kuala Lumpur the 31st July.

Nat himself is obviously exhausted and takes a well deserved break. Wishing him all the best, I am making a note to have an eye on further developments. Does criticizing the government for its poor crime fighting record equal to disclosing an official secret? Ergo, does the government thus not indirectly recognize the poor record?

Malaysian blogger detained

Monday, July 16, 2007 at 7:43 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, malaysia | 2 Comments

This highly critical blog post about the Malaysian government’s poor record on fighting crime is believed to be the reason to arrest of Malaysian blogger Nat Tan. Susan Loone writes that Nat Tan has been detained for four days under Section 8 of the Official Secrets Act 1972:

If convicted, Tan may be sentenced to a jail term not less than one year but not exceeding seven years.

Malaysian bloggers have launched an on line petition calling for immediate release of Nat Tan. The petition can be signed here.

Intimidating Norwegian blogger failed

Monday, February 19, 2007 at 4:21 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech | 4 Comments
Tags: ,

The Norwegian blogger Jarle Bergersen wrote in December about the marketing procedures and especially some cold calls he had received from persons trying to promote the services of Nettkatalogen.no. He wrote that their telephone marketing was less than serious and the persons calling him did not have adequate knowledge of the services they were promoting. Nettkatalogen had an odd way to react to Bjarne’s post: they had their lawyer write a letter to Bjarne’s boss.

Bjarne Jarle works for Trygg og Sikker, a Norwegian company marketing various security devices. He had received the cold calls from Nettkatalogen in his capacity as an employee in the marketing department of Trygg og Sikker but he posted his critical remarks in his private blog. So why did Nettkatalogen choose to have their lawyer Peter L. Brechan from Haavind Vislie legal firm to write to his boss at Trygg og Sikker?

Bjarne Jarle thinks they were trying to intimidate him to removing the post through his employer:

Det kan virke som om Nettkatalogen har fått det for seg at de kan true vekk innhold på nett. I dette tilfellet forsøker de altså å bruke min arbeidsgiver til å presse meg til å fjerne innhold i bloggen min de ikke setter pris på. Det ville kanskje ha fungert hvis jeg stod mindre sterkt i den jobben jeg har. Jeg kan spesielt se for meg problemer hvis jeg skulle ha vært så uheldig å ha en litt “dårlig” sjef og en jobb i et stort multinasjonalt selskap som ikke ønsker mye “bølger”.

Luckily for Bjarne Jarle, he seems to have a good relationship with his boss and his position in the company is steady enough so this attempted intimidation did not work. Things certainly could have gone much worse for him.

Thanks to Geirsan for bringing the incident to my attention.

Another hearing in Kuala Lumpur

Monday, January 29, 2007 at 0:48 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, internet, Legal, malaysia | Leave a comment

To update my post about two bloggers being sued in Malaysia, I am noting that Ahirudin Attan is to appear in court in Kuala Lumpur for a second time today. Prior to the first hearing on 25th January, the defence filed a motion to dismiss the case. On suggestion of both parties, the court then decided to set a date of 22nd February to hear the dismissal motion and the injunction application.

As lawyers representing the New Straits Times and other plaintiffs also raised the issue of comments in the blog allegedly being prejudiced about the court case, the court is going to have a separate hearing today to obtain arguments on that point. Comments in the disputed blog are closed at this moment.

The court is scheduled to hear the case against Jeff Ooi tomorrow.

A critical blog forced to quit

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 22:35 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, Germany, Legal | 9 Comments

The most contested critical blog in the German blogosphere is closing after being subjected to legal challenge on four occasions only during the first month of 2007. Prior to that, Marcel Bartels was sued for his critical articles on several occasions last year. Enough is enough, Marcel writes in an open letter to readers of Mein Parteibuch:

Mein grundgesetzlich garantiertes Recht auf Meinungsfreiheit ist in Deutschland offensichtlich nicht das Papier Wert ist, auf dem es gedruckt ist. Es ist absehbar, dass ich für die weitere Veröffentlichung meiner Rechercheergebnisse und meiner Meinung unter meinem eigenen Namen unter Missbrauch der Gerichte zumindest finanziell ruiniert oder gar ins Gefängnis gesperrt würde.

Marcel is going to continue publishing a blog, though, under domains www.Mein-Parteibuch.com and www.Mein-Parteibuch.org. I have no knowledge as yet about hosting arrengements that Marcel may be considering to protect his site from the obvious abuse of justice that he has experienced while hosting the site under a German jurisdiction. A moment ago I expressed my interest in hosting a mirror of an uncensored version of the site.

The domain http://www.Mein-Parteibuch.org is currently displaying the notorious “cat image” which Marcel has used as illustration while reporting the legal “fan mail” he has received from lawyers. By publishing the picture here I want to express my solidarity. I hope Marcel is not going to sue me for a copyright infringement. 😉

Edit: There is a full English version of Marcel’s open letter in one of the new places.

Verdict postponed

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 21:51 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, Germany, internet, Legal | Leave a comment

Amtsgericht Hamburg was supposed to announce its verdict yesterday on the lawsuite of German Minister of Environment Sigmar Gabriel against Marcel Bartels. The minister is suing Marcel for 756,09 € which he spent on a lawyer rather than just e-mailing Marcel to ask him to remove a picture posted by a user of his wiki site. Instead of a ruling, the court announced yesterday that the case has been postponed to 27th February.

I do not know why the court thinks they need to consider this case further. My personal opinion is that a person unable to write a simple e-mail should not serve as a minister in the federal government. Minsters are supposed to be litterate.

Man of the World has a summary of the case (in German).

Two bloggers sued in Malaysia

Monday, January 22, 2007 at 1:55 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, internet, malaysia | 6 Comments

The High Court of Malaya Kuala Lumpur is scheduled to have separate hearings shortly on two ground breaking lawsuits against high profiled Malaysian bloggers Jeff Ooi and Ahirudin Attan. The bloggers are being sued by New Straits Times (NST), a newspaper close to the Malaysian government. The paper is seeking injunction and unspecified damages for several allegedly defamatory articles in the two blogs.

Several bloggers in Malaysia have published a joint statement under the banner Bloggers United. The bloggers regard the lawsuits as an attempt to censor the public debate in the cyberspace and introduce a media of one single “official truth”. The statement calls for each blogger’s right to publish their uncensored opinion in the web:

As responsible bloggers, we demand and claim our space on the blogosphere for free and fair comment, where important national issues and prominent personalities are discussed.

Although it may seem as if the NSTP defamation suits will have a chilling effect on freedom of bloggers, as litigation can be expensive and may jeorpadise a blogger’s economic position, we will not be cowed or silenced by those who have no regard for free speech.

If you find our post offensive, you may refute us with correct facts and figures and fair comment, in the spirit of free speech.

The Malaysian government has promised never to censor the cyberspace which is why the country has no specific legislation regulating the free speech on line. The lawsuits have been raised under Malaysia’s conventional defamation laws.

The cases will be heard by the High Court on 25th and 30th January. I am keeping an eye on the developments.

Edit: Read also Another hearing in Kuala Lumpur

Emperor’s clothes

Monday, January 22, 2007 at 0:32 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, Germany, internet, Legal | 1 Comment

As I wrote in December, the German Minister of Environment Sigmar Gabriel does not like this photo. Funny as it may be, it is likely to become a sticky image because however much he would like to have it removed, the image has a life of its own. Minister or not, he will have to live with the photo being exposed in the Internet.

The trial in Hamburg about the good minister’s legal costs is approaching its end. A verdict is expected on Tuesday. Mr. Gabriel wants Marcel Bartels to pay him 756,09 € because he chose to have his lawyer draft a cease and desist letter rather than e-mailing and asking Marcel to remove the photo we are talking about.

Whatever the verdict, let us keep this picture alive. I urge bloggers outside German jurisdiction to post this image, just to show the minister that he is not the emperor of the Internet. With or wirhout clothes, that is.

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