The War between Bloggers and Government Peaks

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Jul 30 2007
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It’s very disturbing to note the war between Malaysian bloggers (political bloggers to be specific) and the UMNO, the main party component of the ruling Malaysian Government has started to peaks and potentially could spread into other categories of bloggers – financial, personal, mum-and-dad or even food and recipe blogs.

Almost all printed and electronic licensed medias in Malaysia are controlled, one way or another by the ruling Government which has been in the power since the 1957 Independence. People were said to be fed with positive news only by these controlled medias but everything changes when the “blog” (or web log) was created and gains momentum. Thanks to the technology, people who know the basic internet surfing can now turn to read the other side of the stories.

blogger Jeff Ooi and RockyUMNO, of which the ministers are mostly aged and moulded into walking zombies who will only follows the instruction from the highest person who walks the corridor of powers, have been taken by surprise of the popularity of certain blogs. One similarity that hit all the famous bloggers in Malaysia which command tens of thousands to millions of views per day is that almost all of them are being charged (or going to be charged), one way or another by the government.

Nathaniel TanFirst it was Jeff Ooi (his blog http://www.jeffooi.com/), Ahirudin Attan a.k.a. Rocky (his blog http://rockybru.blogspot.com/) and then the webmaster of opposition party PKR, a Harvard-graduate Nathaniel Tan (his arrest). But none of the above attracts the wide-publicity or the cyber-supports as compare to Raja Petra Kamarudin whose critical articles in his blog, http://www.malaysia-today.net/, invited the UMNO to make a police report. The prominent political writer Raja Petra was then interrogated by police for 8 hours for sedition following complaints that articles on his blog belittled Islam and tried to stir racial tension in the multiethnic nation.

Raja Petra KamarudinAuthorities have not made clear which of Raja Petra’s articles were allegedly seditious but most readers suspected that the government started the war againts Raja Petra (and others?) after his article (read here) on allegations against Inspector General of Police (IGP) Musa Hassan. The Attorney General was surprisingly fast in passing the verdict to clear the IGP and thus government leaders used it as the reason to calls for bloggers to be controlled.

Nazri, another minister sparked concerns over online freedom last week after he said the government was drafting new laws for bloggers and would not hesitate to use the Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial, against bloggers who insult Islam or stir sensitive topics.

Khairy Jamaluddin, deputy youth leader of the ruling Malay party and the prime minister’s son-in-law called for legal action taken against bloggers who spread lies and slander. “There are no laws in the cyberworld except for the law of the jungle. As such, action must be taken so that the monkeys behave,” Khairy was quoted as saying by Bernama.

And today, the government continues the war when Information Minister Zainuddin told the newspaper that the public should be wise in identifying the websites of goblok (Indonesian slang for “stupid”) bloggers, who are willing to be tools of others to destroy the nation. He added that these writers do not have an Asian mentality but lean towards a Western thinking because they were educated overseas.

In his latest salvo, Raja Petra wrote an interesting article titled Raja Petra seditious? Hogwash! after his previous mild article on See you in hell Muhamad son of Muhamad. Raja Petra claimed and pointed out a few IDs that belonged to the 25 UMNO cyber-troopers recruited by UMNO as the persons who actually left the sensitive comments in his blog (read the article a comedy of errors). Malaysia Today is so influence that Raja Petra claimed there was DOS attack launched against the blog.

Bloggers unwantedRegardless of which party wins the war ultimately, the government is definitely wrong and subject to the laughing stock of other countries if it indeed tries to blackout all the other bloggers. As most of the ministers are not IT-literate, you can only expect the worst in any rules, regulations or laws drafted and proposed by them to control the bloggers. However I’m very interested to know how the government plans to block “permanently” those blogs hosted by Google’s Blogger’s platform or blogs hosted overseas. At this moment, the government can only block (such as the case of Malaysia Today) blogs within Malaysia only. Even then there’s a workaround to it unless the Internet Service Providers are instructed to press the button to “power-off” all the equipments.

It’s time for the ruling government to learn the rope of cyber-blogging and accept the fact that bloggers are here to stay. It’s sad to read that while the U.S. Democrats are taking the debate to a higher level of YouTube, Malaysia’s government is still struggling to learn the basic of e-mail and surfing (read here), let alone blogging. If you practice good governance (the same way in corporate governance), nobody will cares about Raja Petra’s blog but if you’ve barrels of worms planted all over the place, then any Tom, Dick and Harry’s article would make you jump up in the middle of your sleep.

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