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Monday, September 28, 1998 Published at 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK


Malaysians take to Web with Anwar protest

Malaysian police can enmesh the traditional media but not the Net

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

Denied access to the traditional media, Malaysians protesting against the arrest of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim have been turning to the Internet.

Newsgroups, where Internet users share e-mail messages on common interests, and pro-Anwar websites have become a source of information for supporters who feel that newspapers, television and radio are reflecting the government line.

The Net is also being used to organise protests - messages advertised a gathering outside the national mosque in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

Police are keeping a watchful eye on Websites. An unidentified group posted a document threatening to blow up two buildings in the capital on Tuesday if Anwar, detained for the past eight days, was not released.

Alleged Net rumourmongers charged

In what was seen as a warning against incitement over the Internet, four people appeared in court last Thursday charged with spreading rumours of rioting.

The three computer specialists and a bank manager had been detained under the Internal Security Act last month after an anonymous e-mail warned that migrant workers from Indonesia were buying machetes.

False reports of them rioting in the capital then circulated, which led to panic buying and residents locking themselves in their homes.

The Information Minister Mohamed Rahmat said last week that the government had never censored news sent via the Internet. It had always allowed the free flow of information but it had to be done in a proper manner, he added.

The government would struggle to impose any censorship on the Internet. It has opened up a Pandora's box in embracing the digital future with its planned Multimedia Super Corridor, a fibre-optic network aimed at creating an Asian Silicon Valley.

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