Malaysia: Vigil for jailed blogger Raja Petra this evening

Take note of what's been happening in Malaysia these past few days since popular blogger and political commentator Raja Petra Kamarudin, 58, was imprisoned on Tuesday after a trial which saw him charged with sedition for having written a blog post.

If the Malaysian government was truly worried about bloggers effecting social unrest, now they have it. Remember, this is a country where any politician worth their mutton—Jeff Ooi was one of several Malaysians who rode their blog and calls for reform to Parliament in recent elections—has a blog, and even the old goats now blog too.

Ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has a highly-read blog, as does PM hopeful Anwar Ibrahim.

“They set up their blogs, and they try to close down our blogs.”

Raja is one of the sharpest voices both online and off in Malaysia, so it's highly suggested you check out his statements to the public right after his sentencing, vlogged by Malaysian citizen media stronghold, Malaysiakini.

Raja Petra (or RPK) has had his case brought to parliament, where MP-bloggers are calling RPK's arrest politically-motivated retaliation sought by the current ruling coalition following its heavy losses in recent elections, elections that saw for the first time popular bloggers winning seats, on a platform of increased transparency and post-colonial racial integration.

As the Malaysia Star points out, this is the first time that a blogger has been charged under the Sedition Act, and RPK now faces a fine of up to just over USD 1,500 and/or three years in prison. The trial, which saw businessman Syed Akbar Ali charged with sedition for a comment he left on RPK's blog, appears to have been carried out with no clarification given as to which part of the Act RPK had supposedly violated.

Multi-ethnic reform lobby group Aliran looks at the text of the Sedition Act, and expresses shock that this led to anything more than a defamation charge.

As of Thursday morning, RPK's readers have raised online far more than what he stands to be fined, and also today comes news that Raja Petra is on a hunger strike, and refusing to meet even with his own wife.

Following a candlelight vigil held outside Sungai Buloh prison last night, another vigil will be held at 8pm this evening in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

A Facebook group that has been set up to call for RKP's release is buzzing today, and a whole set of images can be found there, among other places, for anyone who wants to put a badge on their blog to show their

At the center of all this is still the murder of Mongolian former model and polyglot Altantuya; Raja Petra's blog post calling for justice in her death to be resolved has been posted widely in recent days; here's how it begins:

Today, we shall not be talking about politics. We shall also not be talking about race or religion. Today, we shall talk about doing the human thing. Today, let’s discuss how to launch a ‘Justice for Altantuya: restore Malaysia’s dignity’ campaign. And let’s send those bastards who murdered Altantuya to hell where they belong.

An invitation was extended earlier to Mr. Kamarudin to come speak at this year's Global Voices Advocacy summit to be held in Budapest this June, and remains extended now.


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