Pro-govt Red Shirt protesters in Malaysia demand closure of media outlet

Red Shirt supporters being stopped by police near the office of Malaysiakini in Petaling Jaya yesterday. The protesters have accused the news portal of receiving foreign funds to topple Prime Minister Najib Razak's government.
Red Shirt supporters being stopped by police near the office of Malaysiakini in Petaling Jaya yesterday. The protesters have accused the news portal of receiving foreign funds to topple Prime Minister Najib Razak's government.ST PHOTO: SHANNON TEOH

Pro-government Red Shirts gathered outside Malaysiakini's office in Petaling Jaya yesterday, demanding that one of Malaysia's top news portals be shuttered over allegations it received foreign funds to topple Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's government.

More than 300 protesters, claiming to defend Islam and the country's Constitution against its enemies, gathered at about 2pm in the streets, some 100m from Malaysiakini's office, where riot police had formed a line behind a steel blockade.

Several Red Shirt figures including leader Jamal Yunos, a divisional leader in the ruling Umno, spoke to the crowd.

They accused Malaysiakini and Bersih - the electoral reforms group that is calling for Datuk Seri Najib to step down over graft allegations - of being masterminded by American hedge fund billionaire George Soros.

Mr Soros is a controversial figure in Malaysia, and was blamed by the government for triggering the 1997 Asian financial crisis which plunged the economy and national politics into turmoil.

Malaysiakini has admitted to receiving funding from the Open Society Foundations set up by Mr Soros, but denies that the money was part of a conspiracy to topple Mr Najib.

Several Cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak, have criticised the media outlet, accusing it of enabling "foreign intervention" in Malaysian politics.

Datuk Seri Jamal said yesterday's rally sought to call on the government to shut down Malaysiakini.

"If we have to chase them (Malaysiakini) off, we will chase them off. If we have to close them down, we will close them down," he said in a speech before the crowd began marching towards Malaysiakini at about 3.50pm.

Mr Jamal, who had previously threatened to summon 20,000 Red Shirts to topple the Malaysiakini building, also promised that the Red Shirts will take action against Bersih's planned Nov 19 rally in Kuala Lumpur to demand Mr Najib's resignation.

"If they are stubborn, we will be 10 times as stubborn," he said.

Prior to his speech, several Red Shirt supporters performed a violent and bizarre silat routine, breaking bricks and planks over themselves.

The Red Shirts were stopped by police at the barricade before a few representatives negotiated with the police to be allowed to pass and meet Malaysiakini's top management.

The crowd began to disperse at about 4.10pm.

VIDEO ONLINE

Red Shirt protesters at the rally http://str.sg/4gUM

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 06, 2016, with the headline 'Pro-govt Red Shirt protesters demand closure of media outlet'. Print Edition | Subscribe