Malaysian government shuts down newspaper for ethnic Indians
17 Apr 2008
KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government has shut down a newspaper catering to ethnic minority Indians, a move the daily's news editor slammed on Thursday as punishment for its critical coverage of social and political issues. The Tamil-language Makkal Osai , or People's Voice, received a letter from the Home Ministry on Wednesday saying its operating license would not be renewed, news editor BR Rajan said.
The letter gave no reason, Rajan said. No edition of Makkal Osai was published on Thursday. "It's very shocking. ... It's mostly because of the issues we covered. We go more on social issues ... That has caused some kind of anger to the ministry," he said. Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said the newspaper broke the ministry's guidelines but did not elaborate, according to an aide who declined to be named, citing protocol. Rajan said the daily had given "wide coverage" to opposition rallies and the Indian activists who marshaled some 20,000 ethnic Indians to protest last November against racial discrimination in this Muslim Malay-majority country.
The paper has had repeated run-ins with government authorities. Earlier this year, Makkal Osai received a "small reminder" to tone down its coverage of the Indian protest movement, Rajan said. Last year, the paper was told to suspend publication for a month after printing a picture on its front page of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette, deemed offensive in this multi-religious country where faith is a sensitive issue.
Rajan said Makkal Osai , which employs more than 100 people, would appeal to the ministry to reconsider its decision. "Being journalists, we did our job. We just reported what has happened," Rajan said, adding that the paper would be more careful if its operating license was renewed. The 27-year-old paper competes with another Tamil-language daily linked to the Malaysian Indian Congress, a party in the ruling National Front coalition. Ethnic Indians make up 8 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people.