Thursday, March 26, 2009

No press freedom in Malaysia

The Malaysian government is feeling unpopular. After 50 years of total rule, the governing National Front coalition lost its two-thirds majority in last year's elections, and has recently come close to losing power completely after several parties have defected to the opposition. Their response has been unprecedented authoritarianism: more charges against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, arrests of bloggers, sedition charges against opposition MPs, and now a ban on two major opposition newspapers. No reason has been given for the ban, but the reason is clear: these newspapers are doing their job, with a consequent effect on the government's popularity.

Malaysia is formally a democracy. There are important by-elections scheduled for next month. But it is difficult to see how the people will be able to have a free and fair vote when the major voices of the opposition are effectively silenced. But again, that's the point... a party at the end of its political life is trying every trick in the book, regardless of legality, in order to cling to power. But given their tactics, we should all hope that they fail.