Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's party has defied a government order to stop publishing its newspaper, a party official said Monday.
The Home Ministry recently suspended the publication license of "Suara Keadilan," or "Voice of Justice," the weekly newspaper of Anwar's People's Justice Party, after it ran an article that claimed the state-run land development agency was in grave financial peril.
However, the party distributed 100,000 copies of the paper to newsstands over the weekend by exploiting an apparent loophole in the law, said editor Dzulkarnain Taib.
"What is a political party without a mouthpiece?" Dzulkarnain said. "It's ridiculous. We are still in the dark ages where media laws are concerned."
All regular Malaysian newspapers and magazines require a government permit that must be renewed annually. However, because one-off publications are exempted, the party gave the newspaper's latest issue an abbreviated name - "Keadilan" - to make it technically a different publication from "Suara Keadilan."
A Home Minstry official declined to comment on the party's move. Authorities have previously warned the party would be sued for libel over its recent article and could face other consequences if it continued to publish the newspaper.
Opposition officials have defended the article, saying it was fair comment.
Publishers that distribute banned material can have their equipment seized and be charged under laws that provide for prison sentences of up to three years.
The paper's troubles have sparked accusations by the opposition that the gvernment is cracking down on media freedom.
Two other opposition newspapers were supposed to have obtained fresh publication permits recently, but the government has not formally approved them for unspecified reasons. The papers are run by the three parties in Anwar's opposition alliance, which hopes to wi power in general elections scheduled to be held by 2013.
Opposition newspapers say they provide a balance to the country's main newspapers and TV stations, which are primarily owned or linked to Prime Minister Najib Razak's ruling coalition.
Over the weekend, the government announced it had set up a pel headed by three Cabinet ministers to monitor and curb the spread of false news. Last month, officials banned three political cartoons that criticized the government, saying they posed a security threat.