Critics slam M'sian ban on "political" VCDs

Critics of the Malaysian government's recent crackdown on VCDs containing political speeches of opposition politicians have described the move as as an effort to crush dissent against the ruling coalition, the National Front.

KUALA LUMPUR--Critics of the government's recent crackdown on VCDs containing political speeches of opposition politicians have described the move as as an effort to crush dissent against the ruling coalition, the National Front led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Opposition political party, Keadilan, which is led by the wife of the jailed former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, said the move by the government to outlaw "political" VCDs was an attempt to curb political parties.

Anwar was jailed for six years after being found guilty of corruption, a charge he had consistently denied, claiming he was "fixed" by Mahathir.

Last week, the government had stated that it was banning such VCDs, CDs and cassettes as it posed a danger to Malaysia's multi-racial society.

This move was announced soon after the government vowed to stop the proliferation of illegal VCDs, CDs containing movies, music and pornography in the country.

Pornographic VCDs in particular, which are sold at RM10 a piece, have caused a furore in a country where Islam is the predominant religion. Dirty movies have also been blamed for a spate of sex crimes and murders.

Keadilan deputy president Chandra Muzaffar was quoted by AFP as saying: ""Public gatherings and VCDs are important aspects of opposition public communications. It is part of a concerted and systematic plan to weaken the opposition."

Political parties opposed to the National Front had resorted to VCDs, cassettes and the Internet to get their messages across to Malaysians as the state-controlled newspapers, TV and radio do not give them (opposition parties) a medium.

Local human rights group Suaram activist Rashid Kang added that the recent curb by the government was dangerous and violated human rights.

"Holding elections every five years is not only what democracy is all about. The government must stop the harassment," he added.

However, a research officer from the government-backed Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) said the government was right to outlaw VCDs with political content.

"I think what the government is doing is right because if you do not have the permit to produce and sell video compact discs (VCDs) or tapes it is an offence.

"If the tapes contain information about fasting it is okay but many of these tapes have also political linked contents to promote their interests."

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