Malaysiakini's website is now partially up and running, after its owners changed the I-P address to get around a block on the site. Malaysiakini had been closely reporting campaigning for this weekend's Sarawak state election, on Borneo island. It had been detailing allegations of vote-buying and corruption by the governing party in Sarawak.
Reporter: Alma Mistry
Premesh Chandran, CEO & co-founder of Malaysiakini; Khalid Jaafar, Executive Director, Institute for Policy Research, Kuala Lumpur
MISTRY: Malaysiakini is the best known independent media outlet in Malaysia. It/s english version is available only to paid subsricbers, but its Malay and Chinese sites are free. Malaysiakini's Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Premesh Chandran says the site was on Tuesday swamped by traffic from overseas, rendering it un-useable.
CHANDRAN: Our various servers came under attack from what is known as a D-O-S attack, denial of service attack. From you know an external party flooding our servers with traffic to make them unresponsive to legitimate readers. Since then we've been bringing up new servers in other locations and we're partially back online.
MISTRY: Despite the new internet provider address the site remains crippled. Premesh Chandran says there's little mystery about why the site has been attacked. Last week another online news site, Sarawak Report, was also shut down. Both have been reporting on the lead up to an election in the resource rich Sarawak state, which has been ruled by Abdul Taib since 1981.
CHANDRAN: Sarawak is important politically because we have a situation where the opposition has ben gaining ground in peninsula Malaysia but the ruling coalition the National Front has been able to hold ground in Sarawak and (WHAT?) So this election is critical to see if the opposition can make inroads into Sarawak and if so then change the national balance of power in the country.
MISTRY : Malaysiakini has been reporting on the run up to the election. Can you give us an idea of the stories you've been running?
CHANDRAN: The stories have really focussed on corruption within the ruling regime in Sarawak. The Chief Minister has been Chief Minister for the last 30 years. There are a lot of allegations of corruption in terms of assigning timber concessions to family members, or you know keeping benefits from timber logging, assigning land to political allies and family members. For example his daughter in law who is suing the Chief Ministers son, she's suing him for 400 million, half his wealth. So you can see the Chief Minister's family are extremely wealthy whereas Sarawak is a very poor state.
MISTRY: The outcome of Saturday's poll is being seen as a litmus test of government popularity, ahead of a general election that's expected later this year, but could be called sooner if the government does well on the weekend. Malaysia's opposition parties are hoping to capitalise on the scandals in Sarawak and prevent the ruling national coalition Barisan Nasional from getting more than two thirds of the vote. Khalid Jaafar is the Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research in Kuala Lumpur. Speaking to me from Sarawak state, he says there's a mood for change.
JAAFAR: Well I've been here for a couple of days. We can see a clear winds of change in Sarawak now. Of course the Najib administration coming here with bagfulls of money to give to the people and to make sure that the ruling coalition continues to rule. But definately this will bea historic election in the state of Sarawak.
MISTRY: Jaafar says the blocked news sites are a clear case of censorship, to prevent more damaging information coming out before Saturday.
JAAFAR: The gov has been practising censorship for a long time for more than hald a sentury in Malaysia. But the coming of internet revolution, reformasi people and the opposition parties that now control several states and they have been able to break the control of the information system of the government and this is threatening the very foundations of the current regime.
MISTRY: He says Malaysians will find ways of getting around the authorities.
JAAFAR: Malaysians have many ways of getting information because most of the corruption and the mis-doing of the government is reported either in news portals or other smaller blogs, as well as through Twitter.
MISTRY: Malaysiakini's Chief Executive Officer Premesh Chandran says the site will continue to report on politics in Sarawak. And he says they're preparing for future cyber attacks.
CHANDRAN: Yes we've made a whole lot of changes and I won't go into details but we expect further attacks and we will have to defend against future attacks.