February 28, 2005

BLOGGER JEFF OOI has been taken in for questioning by Malaysian authorities over comments on his weblog. Interestingly, the harassment stems from complaints from a Malaysian newspaper. Could this be as much about competition as politics? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Rajan Rishyakaran emails:

Just to drop the quick email (I’m typing from a cyber cafe computer, don’t have much time), while the questioning seems to be a new development strangely not covered at Jeff Ooi’s Screenshots, the story is rather old. Berita Harian is a Malay daily printed by NSTP (called “Jalan Riong” by the Malaysian blogosphere for where its “Balai Berita” or newsroom headquarters is located). NSTP’s is owned mostly by UMNO, part of and dominant member the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.

However it is less of politics than of commerce. Jeff Ooi have been covering a story which NSTP have been hitting on for months preceding the harrassment you have mentioned – NSTP claims that the sole statistician making figures for newspaper circulation, AC Nielson, is biased towards The Star (the dominant English daily in Malaysia, owned by UMNO’s partner, MCA) and against its dwindling daily, the News Straits Times. Jeff Ooi have been attacking that assertion, so obviously NSTP wasn’t very pleased.

So it seemed that Berita Harian used its media leverage to try to pin Jeff Ooi down. The prime minister’s son-in-law (nepotism in Malaysia? Never!), Khairy, UMNO Youth’s leader, weighted against Jeff Ooi. But it eventually died down, and nothing seem to have come up regarding this case since.

Newspapers going after bloggers — I wonder if that will happen here?