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International web host today continues to remain mum on why it pulled the plug off at least 12 reformasi and opposition party websites. These sites have been inaccessible to Internet users since Saturday afternoon.

The webmasters of these sites have not been officially informed of the reasons for the block.

An e-mail by malaysiakini to Tripod on Sunday seeking further information has yet to be answered by the web host. Tripod, a subsidiary of Terra Lycos, provides free web-hosting services in return for banner advertising.

The reformasi websites involved include Mahafiraun , Komentar , Pemantau , Minda Rakyat , Debat 2020 , NT (anti) Zalim , while the political websites include Harakah Daily (mirror site), Detik Daily (owned by Penerbitan Pemuda company), and those of Pemuda Keadilan, PAS Parit Buntar, Perak and three Tranung Kite sites (operated by PAS Dungun, Terengganu).

The webmasters concerned, too, have contacted Tripod to enquire about the termination of services, but have yet to receive any information on the matter.

Breach of service terms

Since Saturday, the websites have been displaying only the notice by Tripod that the services were terminated on the grounds of violations of the terms of service between the webmasters and Tripod. It, however, did not give details regarding the violations.

In their communication with Tripod, the affected webmasters said that it was disappointing and frustrating that their sites have been taken out without any notice. They raised the possibility that the termination of service could be the result of government intervention.

"On Saturday, March 17, more than 11 websites critical of the government were closed down. All these 11 were hosted at Tripod. It is believed that the government will be communicating with many more website operators or hosts in an attempt to close down all the anti-government websites," they wrote.

"We write this letter to appeal to you not to buckle under the Malaysian government's pressure. The government will try to get you to close down our sites with the excuse that we are using the sites for illegal purposes. The only illegal act we have done is to speak out against corruption, oppression, injustice, and to call for a restoration of human rights, independence of the judiciary, and freedom of the press," they added.

Keadilan youth secretary Lokman Noor Adam told malaysiakini that he has written two letters to Tripod and Terra Lycos regarding the closing down of Keadilan Youth website and other reformasi websites. He said he has yet to receive any response from both companies.

Possible pressure

In his third letter today, addressed to Terra Lycos executive chairman Joaquim Agut and copied to the company chief technology officer Timothy Wright, Lokman urged Tripod to restore services to these sites as soon as possible.

"Without them, no fewer than 250,000 ordinary Malaysians lose their main source of reliable news and information," he said.

He added that he was not sure whether the websites were pulled as a result of a technical error, or whether this was a deliberate measure on the part of Tripod.

However, he said that if the websites were closed due to pressure from the Malaysian government, Terra Lycos should then inform the world the methods, threats and insinuations which it was subjected to.

"We urge you to contact the webmasters directly and ascertain for yourselves the truth of any allegations made by the Malaysian ruling party or its supporters against the reformasi websites," said Lokman.

He gave his assurance that Terra Lycos would have the full support of Keadilan if the company was the target of such campaigns by the government.

Police crackdown

Reformasi supporters and opposition parties turned to the Internet to disseminate news about their movement by setting up such sites since September 1998 after realising that the traditional media were subjected to various repressive laws.

However, in recent weeks, at least one such site has been closed by the government. The webmaster of the popular Free Anwar Campaign website, Raja Petra Kamaruddin was arrested and investigated for allegedly carrying seditious information on the site.

The police removed computers and other equipment from Raja Petra's home on March 7. The website is now being updated by reformasi supporters overseas.