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Malaysia March 14, 2006
H.M. Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Ibni Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail
Yang di-Pertuan Agong
Istana Negara, Jalan Istanaa
50500 Kuala Lumpur
Fax: (011.60.3) 2070-4646
We write to protest your government’s well-meant but misguided actions to cope with the continuing turmoil over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The Overseas Press Club of America, which has been defending journalists around the world for more than 65 years, believes that freedom of expression must not be sacrificed to avert mob violence.
Malaysian authorities declared it an offense for anyone to publish, produce, import, circulate or possess the caricatures. This decree clearly violates Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which holds that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Although protests against the cartoons have been peaceful in Malaysia, the cabinet ordered the indefinite suspension of a regional daily, Sarawak Tribune, which re-printed the cartoons on February 4 th. Officials said that the paper had been insensitive and irresponsible, contributing to public disorder. The paper fired the editor who ran the caricatures.
More recently, after the Chinese-language newspaper Berita Petang Sarawak re-printed some of the cartoons, the government suspended its publishing permit for two weeks. Finally, the publishing permit of the Chinese-language Guang Ming Ribao daily was suspended for two weeks merely for publishing a picture of people reading a newspaper with the caricatures.
Your Majesty, this controversy has been provocative in its origins, mischievous in its exploitation and tragic in its consequences. We hope that it may subside without further damage. But it would be harmful indeed if the episode served to justify suppression of the basic human right of freedom of expression.
We hope you will continue to call for moderation and non-violence in protesting the cartoons, but we also urge you to underscore the value of a free exchange of views. And we ask you to restore the publication rights of the three newspapers.
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee
Abdullah bin Ahmad Badawi
Federal Government Administration Center
Bangunan Perdana Putra
Fax: (011.60.3) 8888-3424
Dato Sheikh Abdul Khalid Ghazzali
Ambassador of Malaysia to the U.S.A.
Embassy of Malaysia
3516 International Court, NW
Washington , DC 20008
Fax: (202) 572-9882
Ambassador Hasmy bin Agam
Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations
313 East 43 rd Street
New York , NY 10017
Fax: (212) 490-8576
Christopher J. La Fleur
U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia
Embassy of the United States of Ameria
376 Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur
Fax: (011.60.3) 2168-4961