Many opposition and news websites have fallen victim to distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) in the run-up to tomorrow’s election in Malaysia’s eastern state of Sarawak (on the island of Borneo), which is posing a challenge to Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud’s 30-year-old rule of the state.
“It is sad to see that election campaigns and freedom of information do not go together in Malaysia,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We condemn the use of cyber-attacks to control content on the Internet, which continues to offer an exceptional space for expression in a country in which the tradition press is gagged by the government.”
The press freedom organisation added: “Such practices to do not bode well for the general elections due to be held by the end of 2011, in which bloggers and online journalists will have a crucial role to play in informing the public.”
The sites that are currently inaccessible include Sarawak Report, Radio Free Sarawak, Dayak Baru Blog and Malaysiakini, whose Twitter account has been suspended. Alternative links have been created to access Malaysiakini – malaysiakinicom.wordpress.com and www.facebook.com/malaysiakini.
Sarawak Report has been investigating the sources of Taib Mahmud’s wealth. Malaysiakini, which acquired an international reputation by its coverage of Malaysia’s previous prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has carried many stories about the preparations for these elections, which are seen as a test for Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional party, and has accused Taib Mahmud of vote-buying.
Malaysia is ranked 141st out of 178 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and is classified as a country “under surveillance” in the Reporters Without Borders report on Enemies of the Internet, above all because of its harassment of bloggers.