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Framing The Fight Against Terror: Order Versus Liberty in the Mainstream and Alternative Media
Unformatted Document Text:  ICA-6-10348 1 Framing The Fight Against Terror: Order Versus Liberty In The Mainstream And Alternative Press The threat of terror has strengthened the consensus around the need for order, even at the expense of civil liberties. What is the role of the press in promoting and policing this consensus? This paper examines the performance of news media in a setting where alleged terrorist cells have recently been uncovered, prompting the use of security laws that permit lengthy detention without trial. The place is Malaysia, a multi-ethnic country in South-east Asia. In mid-2001, the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad rounded up 25 individuals who it claimed were members of a hitherto-unheard-of militant group, the Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM). In early January 2002, amidst heightened sensitivity to the threat of global terrorism following the September 11 attacks, the authorities announced a second swoop, in which 13 KMM members were detained. Fourteen more were arrested in April. In all these actions, the government used the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows indefinite detention without trial. The ISA, an inheritance from British colonial rule, has been retained with some public support as a necessary instrument to preserve order in a society that has experienced race riots in the past. However, opposition groups and human rights groups have protested against the ISA, calling for its repeal or reform. Dozens of political activists and opposition leaders have been detained since the pro- democracy Reformasi protests launched in 1998. Malaysia has been governed since its independence from the British in 1957 by an alliance of parties led by the Malay nationalist UMNO. Malays make up more than half of the population, and are almost entirely Muslim by faith. Mahathir’s government has pursued an aggressive modernization agenda. The ruling alliance’s most serious electoral threat comes from the Islamic Party of Malaysia, PAS. It also faces dissent from an array of opposition politicians, human rights activists and assorted protesters who object to its illiberal methods of maintaining control, its questionable business interests, and political

Authors: George, Cherian.
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ICA-6-10348
1
Framing The Fight Against Terror:
Order Versus Liberty
In The Mainstream And Alternative Press
The threat of terror has strengthened the consensus around the need for order, even at the
expense of civil liberties. What is the role of the press in promoting and policing this
consensus? This paper examines the performance of news media in a setting where
alleged terrorist cells have recently been uncovered, prompting the use of security laws
that permit lengthy detention without trial.
The place is Malaysia, a multi-ethnic country in South-east Asia. In mid-2001, the
government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad rounded up 25 individuals who it
claimed were members of a hitherto-unheard-of militant group, the Kumpulan Militan
Malaysia (KMM). In early January 2002, amidst heightened sensitivity to the threat of
global terrorism following the September 11 attacks, the authorities announced a second
swoop, in which 13 KMM members were detained. Fourteen more were arrested in April.
In all these actions, the government used the Internal Security Act (ISA), which
allows indefinite detention without trial. The ISA, an inheritance from British colonial
rule, has been retained with some public support as a necessary instrument to preserve
order in a society that has experienced race riots in the past. However, opposition groups
and human rights groups have protested against the ISA, calling for its repeal or reform.
Dozens of political activists and opposition leaders have been detained since the pro-
democracy Reformasi protests launched in 1998.
Malaysia has been governed since its independence from the British in 1957 by an
alliance of parties led by the Malay nationalist UMNO. Malays make up more than half
of the population, and are almost entirely Muslim by faith. Mahathir’s government has
pursued an aggressive modernization agenda. The ruling alliance’s most serious electoral
threat comes from the Islamic Party of Malaysia, PAS. It also faces dissent from an array
of opposition politicians, human rights activists and assorted protesters who object to its
illiberal methods of maintaining control, its questionable business interests, and political


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