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Malaysian editor charged over satirical blog post

A Malaysian editor was charged on 2 September 2010 with publishing false information on his satirical blog, media reports said.

The Associated Press said Irwan Abdul Rahman, better known as blogger "Hassan Skodeng," and editor of the "Malay Mail" newspaper's lifestyle section was accused of publishing online content deemed "obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with malicious intent."

Irwan pleaded not guilty before the court in Petaling Jaya to charges that he violated section 233 (1) (a) Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Act.

News portal www.themalaysianinsider.com said that "if convicted, Irwan can be fined up to RM5,000 or jailed up to a year, or both." He was later released after posting a bail of RM4,000.

AP said the case stemmed from Irwan's blog article, "TNB to sue WWF over earth hour" posted in March this year in which he claimed that the head of Malaysia's main electricity firm, Tenaga Nasional, would allegedly sue the environmental group World Wildlife Fund "for urging people to switch off their lights for the annual Earth Hour initiative."

Irwan said the "fake jokes" he posts in his blogs are meant as "stress relief". He said he removed the article two days after he posted it after he noticed a sudden increase in traffic in his blog, noting that "the reaction to [the] joke has gone out of control."

Malaysian media group Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), a SEAPA associate member based in Kuala Lumpur, noted that with Irwan's case, authorities are telling the public what are the "no-go areas" for Malaysian bloggers, hence "instilling self-censorship."

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