By Juan L. Mercado

SHEPERDING FELLOW-BLOGGERS, talk-show host and columnist Manuel Quezon III chalked up a “first” in Congress history: They filed a “complaint-in-intervention” for the impeachment charges against President Arroyo.

This is a “gray area,” House of Representatives secretary-general Marilyn Yap said. “Our rules do not explicitly provide for it.”

Of course not. Bloggers are the new kids on the Cyberspace Block.  UCLA professor Leonard Klienrock sent, in 1969, the first internet message to Stanford Research Center. That was just across town. “Now, even my 97-year old mother uses it,” he says.

The starkest example of courageous blogging is in Malaysia . As in traditional media, audacity on the Net emerges in a person:  58-year old editor: Raja Petra bin Raja Kamarudin.

In his “Malaysia Today website “RPK” discusses issues that censors blot out from Kuala Lumpur newspapers. International Press Institute says Malaysia turned the screws further in 2008 on the press.

Malaysia is a signatory of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. But government harassed, threatened, unlawfully arrested journalists. It seized equipment and sued journalists. Censors, for example, ripped an article on Asian Muslims from The Economist. Books have been banned, including Charles Darwin’s “Origin of Species”.

Online journalists (bloggers) attract wider readership than the gagged mainstream media. “They were highly targeted this year” IPI said. Government‘s new registration bill subjects bloggers to stiff sanctions: detention without trial, sedition charges – if their articles are “negative, critical or harmful to social peace”.

Kuala Lumpur hasn’t succeeded in totally “firewalling” RPK. But his website has been defaced. Police interrogated him repeatedly. He’s been detailed twice under the draconian Internal Security Act.

Malaysia’s High Court resembles Marcos subservient Supreme Court. But Justice Syed Ahmad ruled on RPK’s habeas corpus petition: “The Home Minister cannot simply detain someone. He must be confined to the circumstances stated. “Wall Street Journal hailed that uncharacteristic decision as “a victory for free speech.”

At the United Nations, Malaysia participated this week in the Universal Interfaith Dialogue. At home, it is a different story. RPK’s firstblog, after release, gave scathing insights into Kamunting detention camp.  Excerpts: ”Our ‘religious rehabilitation’… started after Deepavali. (Feast of Light) “Islam is the true religion. Other religions are false,” the camp ustaz told us. Only the Koran is the true Holy Book. If we imitate non-Muslims, we become apostates.

RPK recalled his blog noted that Friday sermons “run down other religions”. They told us:  don’t imitate non-Muslims “. They’re sworn enemies of Islam. For pointing this out, I was detained under the Internal Security Act.  Ironically, this theme kicked off our ‘religious rehabilitation’.

Muslims shouldn’t do yoga or meditate, as the origin of this is Hinduism, a lecturer drummed into us.  They’d “be led astray”.  Muslim scholars should ban these thru a i a fatwa (decree).

Don’t draw from Hindu or Christian customs, we were told. Smile when you pass by a Malay house during Hari Raya and see all those colored lights. That’s from a Hindu ritual. We use the Christian calendar. “What day of the Islamic (Hirjah) calendar did I commit my crimes? The charge sheet does not say.

Don’t follow the kafir (non-Muslim), religious scholars tell us. Are a tie, coat and pants not kafir attire? How many Malays wear a robe and turban?  Government officers wear kafir clothes. So do security forces.

I face charges in a kafir court for crimes according to kafir laws. I was detained, without trial. Islam does not allow for detention without trial. Instead, Islam makes it mandatory for to perform “Amar Makruf,  Nahi Munkar”: Uphold good and oppose evil”.

“And do you not wonder why Islam suffers from a serious image problem? Muslims should take stock of what they are doing and understand the disservice they are doing to Islam.

”Malays can be amazing, most times. UMNO (the ruling party) says: we’d be nothing if we were not Malay and did not have a New Economic Policy (that discriminates in favor of Malays).”

”Only losers need crutches. UMNO wants these crutches to remain. Because they’re all a bunch of losers. I would hate people saying: “of course, Raja Petra is successful. He is a Malay and Malays need the NEP to get ahead.”

This is an insult. I believe that I’m “special” because I am Raja Petra. If it is because of the NEP then I’d be washing cars in Bangsar.
“Malays used to be a proud race. Now, they accept they’re weak. So they demand protection to compensate for weakness. It is time the crutches are removed.  Malays must learn how to walk with heads held up high. Their achievements (must) not be due to special privileges they enjoy because they are Malay. “

That is a defiant voice of an editor with integrity. Despite government suppression, he remains unfazed.. This blogger   sets an example for Filipinos who take press freedom here for granted. Raja Petra bin Raja Kamarudin would give his right arm for that liberty. (E-mail: juan_mercado@prime.net.ph)