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March 24, 2009

Malaysia: Govt suspends opposition dailies ahead of crucial polls

Malaysia's Home Ministry on Monday suspended two opposition newspapers for three months in a move that the opposition claimed was aimed at scuttling their campaign in three upcoming by-elections.

Kyodo news agency quoted Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar as confirming that Suara Keadilan and Harakahdaily, the party organs of the People's Justice Party (PKR) and the Pan Islamic Party (PAS), respectively, have been suspended with immediate effect.

"It's true we suspended the two newsletters from today. We do not wish to restrict press freedom in this country but they were still publishing untrue stories after they were given warnings," he was quoted as saying by the online edition of The Star.

With the suspension, both newspapers will miss out on a number of key political events including the handover of power from Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to his deputy Najib Abdul Razak next week and more critically three by-elections scheduled for April 7.

"This is unfair as we have three by-elections coming and we can't distribute our news to the people," PKR information chief Tian Chua told Kyodo News. With the mainstream media tightly controlled by the ruling elites, the opposition relies on their party organs to channel their messages.

They viewed the suspension as yet another strong-arm tactic of Najib. "(It's) another example of Najib Razak showing his iron fist," the Democratic Action Party's parliamentary chief Lim Kit Siang wrote in his blog.

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