By JULIA ZAPPEI
updated 2:58 a.m. ET March 13, 2009
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A man was fined almost $3,000 Friday for insulting a Malaysian sultan in an online posting, government officials said, the latest in a series of actions against Internet writers in this Southeast Asian country.
Five others were also charged for "improper use of facilities" by making comments deemed "obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive" on the Web site of the sultan of northern Perak state, representatives of the attorney general's office said on condition of anonymity citing protocol.
Malaysia — known for its strict control of the media — had once promised not to regulate online content in a bid to draw more investors but in recent years has cracked down on online commentary critical of the government.
A court in Kuala Lumpur fined Azrin Mohamad Zain, a 33-year-old lab assistant, 10,000 ringgit ($2,700) after Azrin pleaded guilty to insulting Sultan Azlan Shah in a comment on his Web site, the officials said.
The other five, who were charged in courts throughout the country, pleaded innocent to the same offense, the officials said. Their trials will start next month and they face up to a year in prison or a fine of up to 50,000 ringgit ($13,600) if found guilty.
Another person will be charged with the same offense on Sunday, and more people are still being investigated, the officials said.
"They are not bloggers, but ordinary people who posted comments on the Perak Royal Web site using nasty and obscene words," Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying.
The sultan's Web site was not accessible Friday, but the attorney general's office and palace officials could not say whether it had been taken down.
Critical online commentaries have mushroomed in Malaysia, where all mainstream media is government-linked. But in recent years, bloggers have come under increased scrutiny.
Last year, prominent online writer Raja Petra Raja Kamaruddin was detained under a strict security law that allows for indefinite detention without trial. He was released after two months.
Raja Petra has also been charged with sedition for allegedly linking the deputy prime minister to a murder case. Other bloggers have been investigated over allegedly defacing the police logo and flying the Malaysian flag upside-down on their Web sites.
Yeah. Um. Fail. Way to twist the law to suit your own purposes, BN. Also, for those with subscriptions, Malaysiakini has a pretty lengthy article here.