Is Home Ministry’s withholding of FEER/Asiawweek another example of hamfisted government  countering “negative” reports or somebody’s secret agenda to focus greater national  attention on Mahathir’s end-game?

Media Statement

by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday):  Is the Home Ministry’s withholding of the previous issues of Far Eastern Economic Review and Asiaweek with a cover date of March 1 and 2 respectively for the past week another example of hamfisted government countering “negative” reports or is it somebody’s secret agenda to focus greater national attention on the end-game of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad?

This is because in  the era of information technology where censorship is so porous,  the most powerful  way to ensure an extraordinary readership for  an article way and beyond a magazine’s normal circulation  is for the government to censor it, whether by outright ban or by refusal to release the print copy for sale  in the news stands although they are freely and easily accessible on the Internet - and the readership would take a quantum leap!

In my media statement yesterday, I had asked whether the authorities concerned had found an article in the withheld issue of  Far Eastern Economic Review entitled ‘Shaking the party  grip on power’ by Lorien Holland offensive.

Basically, the writer had raised the questions whether this is now the “end-game” for Mahathir, as  he has lost not only majority Malay support but Chinese support is also wavering, and there is widespread discontent against him  even in UMNO among the officials  and members, and that  UMNO and Barisan Nasional face the prospect of losing  the next general election which must be held by 2004 if Mahathir continues in office.

What is intriguing is what is the real purpose for the withholding of this FEER issue - to ban the article from Malaysians which everyone knows is impossible in the era of IT or to give it the greatest boost in readership by high-handed and arbitrary action like withhholding it from the market for a week? Lorian Holland could not ask for a greater readership thanks to the Home Ministry.

May be, the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi  would like to throw some light as to the real reasons for the Home Ministry’s  actions against FEER and Asiaweek.

*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman