Wednesday, May 07, 2008

RPK and the Sedition Charge

This blogger adds her voice to those expressing concern and support for Raja Petra Kamaruddin who has been arrested and charged with sedition for his article Let's Send the Alantunya Murderers to Hell which he posted on his news portal Malaysia Today. RPK has refused bail and is now going to jail.

My overseas readers who don't know the background to the case, might like to read this piece the originally from Asian Wall Street Journal (now archived on the Unspun blog) about the horrifying murder and the possible political implications. The case is ongoing, but whether those who gave the order for her killing will ever be brought to justice remains to be seen.

That RPK should find himself in court over his words, I'm sure surprises no-one.

But arrested? But charged with sedition? As Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan of the Malaysian Bar Council says :
The Sedition Act is a draconian, archaic and repressive piece of legislation that has long outlived any perceived utility it may ever have had. It is incompatible with the progressive, open and democratic society that we had believed Malaysia was becoming," she said, adding that the use of such law was disconcerting and lends credence to the view that in fact the democratic space in Malaysia is still severely curtailed. ... The Sedition Act and other authoritarian laws represent a severe encroachment on the fundamental freedoms enshrined in our Constitution. These fundamental civil liberties are indisputable hallmarks of any democracy and must be safeguarded if Malaysia is to lay any claim to being a democratic nation.
It looks as if someone at the top wants to scare, not only RPK, but the whole online community into compliant silence, don't you think?


Janet said...

Good that you're blogging about this, Sharon. It's a big shock that the government has gone to these ridiculous lengths to establish themselves as great bullies--absolutely disgusting. I read the article and found nothing seditious in it (although "sedition" in itself is a stupid, "outdated" concept). Hope RPK's legal team will fight the good fight well. It's definitely another way to suppress the online community and in particular remind Malaysians that there is no freedom of expression in this country, especially when you talk about people in certain political quarters.

Amir said...

RPK's article on Mat Taib last year remains one of the best pieces of non-fiction that any Malaysian has ever keyed in. Long may he reign!

Anonymous said...

Not true. I don't see what freedom of expression has to do with this. If I say you sleep around, that you're a prostitute, a whore, what would you do ? If I implied you were a murderer, what would you do ? If this is the Janet I know. suppose I waved a placard at your performance with your face and "MURDERER" on it ? what would you do ? call security right ? same here.

No difference.

The real question here is whether one is responsible for the replies on one's blogs. I don't see why they arrested him instead of the people who posted it. It does smack of favoritism when you arrest the guy who posted the comments in the PAS blog case but in this case you arrest the blog owner. There's no consistency here.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks janet - wasn't sure whether to blog it or not as it isn't books ... but it is about freedom of speech and and it is a test case

amir - thanks, shall go back and read it!

anon - wrong janet 'cos this doesn't perform. if you called her a murderer she could take you to court and sue your socks off. as naguib was perfectly entitled to do in this case.

janet could not charge you with sedition for one important reason - she can't cling to the machinery of state power when it suits her because she is an ordinary person and not a politician with ropes and cables to pull.

Janet said...

Sharon--absolutely right there. I think most people don't understand the circumstances in which the Sedition Act is used (usually not for a good reason). But yes, everyone's entitled to sue anyone's socks off. But that wouldn't be as fun, right? Although the Singapore government might beg to differ.

Karcy R. said...

Unlike a lot of other people sitting in the 'blogosphere', I don't like RPK all that much, but I firmly believe that he has the right to voice his opinions.

Btw Sharon, Jacob's video autoruns every time I load your blog. Is there a way that you can pause it?

Karcy R. said...

Uhm. I'm Cat R. by the way. I've started to use my Blogspot account actively, so I'll be commenting with that from now on.

bibliobibuli said...

karcy - just turn the volume off on jabob. i left a note on the post. i am not sure how viddler works so perhaps reza is the person who can tell us!!

was not an RPK fan myself (must confess don't often read him) but yes, this is about his right to speak out

Anonymous said...


This raises an important point : who is responsible for replies to a blog ? it's not about his right at all. I just read the piece, and nowhere did he implicate anyone. If they went after the comment poster in the Karpal Singh issue, why are they going after the blogger in this one ?

bibliobibuli said...

good question and i am not sure i can answer it. we haven't been told what rpk has been charged with exactly and i don't know if we will be!

animah said...


The offence is "publishing" the comment. So if I wrote a seditious comment but merely kept it in my computer, I didn't publish it. If I wrote a comment and posted it on this site, I have put it out to the public and therefore am responsible for it. The blogger who has provided this site for me to come and post this henious statement is liable if she allows the statement to remain on her blog. It is like a newspaper publishing a seditious/defamatory letter or article.

Sharon, for your own interest, you need to find out. We can have a chat on this sometime.

The newspapers have said what he is charged with, but I am more interested in reading the charge sheet to see which of the 5 types of sedition he has been charged with. If the charge didn't mention which limb, it is, in my view incorrectly framed and cannot stand.

Of course the courts will allow an amendment of a charge within specific boundaries, but at times the boundaries seem very streched.

Oh, and in my view RPK's article is not seditious under the Sedition Act.

bibliobibuli said...

thank goodness for lawyers! thanks animah

i don't think bloggers are held responsible for comments left by others in other parts of the world, and it hasn't really been spelt out here.

but in RPK's case it isn't the comments that have caused problems is it?

Anonymous said...

"The offence is "publishing" the comment. So if I wrote a seditious comment but merely kept it in my computer, I didn't publish it. If I wrote a comment and posted it on this site, I have put it out to the public and therefore am responsible for it. The blogger who has provided this site for me to come and post this henious statement is liable if she allows the statement to remain on her blog. It is like a newspaper publishing a seditious/defamatory letter or article."

So tell me why the teenager who threatened Karpal Singh in the PAS blog was arrested, and not the blog owner ?

Karcy R. said...

Animah, that sounds serious. As a blog owner myself, I don't like the idea of being arrested for comments made on my blog either.

This is a serious problem when it comes to blogging, because I for one don't believe in moderated commenting. None of my blogs have moderated commenting. I find that it kills spontaneity. The only thing I use to moderate comments is the CAPTCHA.

I don't have the (mis)fortune of running highly successful blogs, but I can imagine that in some situations it must be hard to moderate hundreds of comments. What if I decided to leave the Internet for about a week or so for some good time off, only to come home to find myself charged for something I did not do?

I'll also agree with one of the Anons; unless the person who made the comment is brought to court along with RPK, I find it hard to believe that this is case does not come with the ulterior motive of silencing RPK.

bibliobibuli said...

anon - according to what law or just what the government would like to have you believe??? (if so quote subsection) in the UK it has been ruled that blog owners are not liable so let's campaign for that if need be.

the blogosphere is not yet tied up in red tape so let's plan to keep it that way.

Anonymous said...

Bib, it's section 506 (criminal intimidation.)

Link here :

bibliobibuli said...

the blogger was not liable only the person who posted the comment. which is how it should be. (and that is what i meant by the situation in the UK) why should the blogger be liable? if you post a comment you are in a sense publishing your own words when you click send, partic as in this instance on a shoutbox.

unless we switch on comment moderation, we cannot live on out blogs checking all comments.

i do not moderate comments and i allow anonymous postings because i know a lot of readers are shy and i very much want their comments. fortunately i don't really stir up too many controversies as this is a blog about things literary.

but when my blog got hit by some very horrible racist stuff not so long ago. i left it on my blog but made an official complaint to telekom who investigated. we have to be vigilant but i do not want to censor comments because i do not agree with censorship.

Anonymous said...

See therein lies the rub. Is a post a "publishing" or is a post a "submission" ? If you click "publish your comment" are you publishing or submitting for publication ? they've got to figure that one out. To me it seems inconsistent, in one case they're holding the blogger responsible and in the other the poster.

No doubt RPK should be responsible for his earlier articles (which may still be up) but I don't think anything is wrong with the latest one.

bibliobibuli said...

yes, it's all a grey area isn't it?

animah said...

Quick answer - under the law, they can go after both the blogger and the person posting the comment. As to why they go for one and not the other is speculative.

For an idea of the principles, see the Online Content Code (under the Malaysian Communications & Multimedia Act 1998) at

It does not provide for blog situations as it was drafted prior to blogs being widespread, but it helps you understand the "liability" of someone who is a "content aggregator".

Agree with Sharon, should lobby that bloggers should not be liable for comments on their blogs. Sharon, can you point me to the UK position. Where is it stated?

Anonymous said...

"Responsibility for Content provided Online by Code Subjects primarily rests with the creator of the Content"

Well there we go. This seems to imply that the _creator_ of the content is responsible. Since the poster is the creator of the content, he mus be held responsible.

From the CAMA :

"content" means any sound, text, still picture, moving picture or other audio-visual representation, tactile representation or any combination of the preceding which is capable of being created, manipulated, stored, retrieved or communicated electronically;

Anonymous said...

I just thought of something, what if he was being sued for his _other_ stuff, and someone or something is trying to make him a martyr by saying he's being sued for that particular post ? that's an angle no one seems to have covered so far.