Wednesday 20 July 2011

Distributor ordered to black out Economist, says ministry

The government has censored sections of an article in The Economist magazine about a mass rally for electoral reform because of "incorrect information", a Home Ministry official said today.

Abdul Aziz Mohamad Nor, head of the publication unit in the Home Ministry, which is responsible for internal security told AFP that the magazine's local distributor was directed to black out parts of a story in the July 16 edition.

"When we do that (remove sections) we consider that part of the article (in the July 16 edition) had not been proven correct yet," he told AFP.''
NONEThe censored parts in the article, entitled 'Taken to the cleaners', refer to the death of a man during the July 9 protest and to the police crackdown on the rally.

Police say the man died of a heart attack, while his family claim he collapsed after running away from tear gas.
Abdul Aziz said the decision was reached after 
consultation with the police, adding that the home minister had powers to censor publications which are "likely to be prejudicial to public order... or likely to alarm public opinion."

Grace Hahn, Asia-Pacific circulation and group marketing director of The Economist Group, said in an email to AFP that the censorship "was not of our own doing." She declined to comment further.

NONEThe protest, which saw more than 10,000 people take to the streets to call for electoral reform, has raised the ire of the government, who said the rally was an opposition ploy to tarnish the country's moderate image.

Government leaders have backed the police, who crushed the protest with tear gas and water canon and arrested more than 1,700 people, for their actions saying it prevented further chaos.

The opposition-backed rally was organised by an electoral reform group calling for, among other things, longer campaign periods and an end to vote buying ahead of the next elections widely expected to be held by next year.

Mainstream media is largely government-linked and controlled through printing permits, but online news portals and blogs, which are not subject to any permits, have flourished.

It is not the first time The Economist has run-up against state censors.

In May, the magazine accused India of hostile censorship after officials insisted that a map be covered up as it showed disputed borders in Kashmir.


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