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The BBC's Frances Harrison in Kuala Lumpur
"Harakah has become the mouthpiece of all the Malaysian opposition parties"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 14:49 GMT
Malaysia curbs opposition paper
Hishamuddin Yahya
Not available: Hishamuddin Yahya with the banned edition
The Malaysian Government has limited the country's largest opposition newspaper to publishing only two editions a month.

Until now, Harakah has published two editions a week, which sell an average of 270,000 copies, although its readership is estimated to be significantly larger.

"We will appeal to the Home Ministry against this," said Harakah's editor, Zulkifli Sulong.

"Of course the government is trying to silence us."

All publications in Malaysia require an annual permit from the Home Ministry.

Mr Zulkifli said he had been told the decision was made by Home Affairs Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is widely seen as Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's preferred successor.

Banned edition

Zulfilki Sulong
Zulfilki Sulong: "The government is trying to silence us"
Mr Zulkifli said the newspaper, whose circulation had ballooned after 1998 anti-government protests, had applied in December for a renewal of its permit, but had not been given a response until late on Wednesday, preventing the publication of an edition that was in the presses.

The banned edition will be posted on the newspaper's website, but the cost of the lost production will amount to 100,000 ringgit ($26,300).

Election shock

Harakah is published by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, or PAS, which tripled its seats in parliament during the November 1999 general elections, seriously damaging Dr Mahathir's United Malays National Organisation.

The newspaper's publication permit prohibits it from being bought by people who are not members of PAS. But many newsstands flout the law by openly selling Harakah to the public.

Mahathir Mohamad
Dr Mahathir: Named one of "top 10" enemies of the press
Published mostly in the Malay language with a few pages in English, including world news by international wire services, Harakah is the only mouthpiece of the opposition in a country where the mainstream press is tightly controlled.

Harakah's managing director Hishamuddin Yahya said he understood that an application by the PAS to publish a daily newspaper, Purnama, would be rejected.

"We are very pessimistic," he said. "If they can't tolerate a bi-weekly how can they tolerate a daily?"

Mr Zulkifli and the newspaper's printer, Chea Lim Thye, are due to appear in court in May on sedition charges.

The New York-Based Committee to Protect Journalists last year named Dr Mahathir one of the top 10 "enemies of the press" worldwide.

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See also:

12 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Opposition figures arrested in Malaysia
20 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Troubled start for Malaysian parliament
10 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Malaysia's strongman Mahathir
30 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Mahathir secures fifth term
13 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Fifth opposition arrest in Malaysia
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