Malaysia has shut down a prominent Tamil-language daily critical of the government, a move slammed by the opposition as a crackdown on press freedom and human rights.
The government has suspended the publication permit of Makkal Osai without specifying any reason, the newspaper’s general manager S. M. Periasamy said.
The paper’s office was informed of the decision over the phone by the Home Ministry. All Malaysian media outfits need a government license, which is renewed annually. Periasamy said the paper, which did not publish its edition today, would appeal to the Home Ministry to reconsider its decision.
The newspaper had its permit suspended for one month last August for publishing a picture of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette in one hand and a can of beer in the other on its front page. The photo had a caption: “If a person repents his mistakes, heaven awaits him.”
Opposition lawmaker Lim Kit Siang of the Democratic Action Party has described the decision as a crackdown on human rights by the government. He said the daily was punished for giving too much coverage to the opposition.
The ruling Barisan National coalition of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi returned to power with a small majority in the March 8 general elections. The electoral debacle is being seen partly as a result of discontentment among the ethnic Indian community, which alleges marginalisation.
Makkal Osai or ‘The People’s Voice’ was published as a weekly newspaper for 15 years before it became a daily in December 2005. It has a circulation of 52,000 and employs approximately 100 employees.