Two weeks ago, malaysiakini reported that Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin aired his intention to categorise bloggers into two groups, ‘professionals’ and ‘non-professionals’ as a ‘mechanism of control’.
I sure don’t fancy being one of the items under his ‘mechanism of control’. But we know the government has been deeply worried about hostile bloggers posting articles unfavourable to them, so the proposed categorisation scheme was euphemised as an ‘assurance process’ to identify sources of reliable news (guess whose news would be reliable?) or even to protect newspaper circulation, as if every Tangaveloo, Daud and Har Lee in Malaysia has Internet-capable PCs.
Sometimes Zam takes us for fools but then most politicians do - and they’re on both sides of the fence – the shepherd and the sheep syndrome.
But eventually he came to the real reason for his desired ‘mechanism of control’, saying that: "... certain individuals and groups were misusing blogs for personal agendas (of course, what else?), such as questioning constitutional religious matters (if these affect you, why not, and it’s our right to protect our constitutional rights?) and causing public uneasiness (how? who’s the ‘public’?)".
OK, for ‘public uneasiness’, please read as ‘BN uneasiness’.
And right at the heart of his fears has been this statement: “This classification will facilitate (legal) action to be taken against those found to have violated the country’s laws [...] We have to control this. It is feared that these (blogs) will be misused by those who have an agenda to spread slander.”
above underlining is mine
Instead of ‘leaking’ in his pants, minister Zainuddin should participate in the blogsphere. As Khoo Kay Peng wrote in to malaysiakini to advice Zam: “This way, his team of bloggers will be able to respond to any alleged slander or lies.”
Sometimes the problem facing ministers right up to the PM, is they’re ill served by so-called (and probably clueless) advisors whose sole recommendation seems to be ‘ban this and that’, and ‘confiscate this and that’, that is when they are in a good mood, or otherwise, ‘send’ the hapless target to Kem Kamunting.
Mark my word, sales of Dr Kua’s May 13 book is probably soaring right now, thanks to the heavy handed seizure of books recently – see malaysiakini’s ‘No Ban Yet on May 13 book’.
Meanwhile, by contrast, the bête noire of UMNO, Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR, has embraced the blogosphere with relish. It has even enticed the pro-tem committee of the proposed All-bloggers organisation to visit him, or who knows, the All-bloggers made that visit on its own accord.
I must say that I and some other bloggers have been caught by surprise by the visit. In fact I am now quite confused as to what the real objective or role of the All-bloggers organisation is?
If the aim was to make important contacts to protect bloggers’ interest, why visit Anwar as a first stop instead of the Minister of Information? This will only provoke the establishment into believing, rightly or wrongly, that bloggers are pro opposition in general and pro-Anwar in particular. This has been what Zam has feared.
To be fair, the pro-tem chairperson of the proposed All-bloggers did mention the organisation intends to have talks with government ministers including the PM, but I believe the ‘harm’ has already been done. The establishment won’t be too impressed by the unfortunate perception that All-bloggers are biased towards Anwar Ibrahim and PKR. And in this country, ‘perception’ is what matters, not true intention.
The pro-tem committee may argue that there was a pro-UMNO bloke in the team that visited Anwar Ibrahim but I doubt that’s going to be sufficient for a person like Zam or the PM to accept. Why antagonise them when we want them to keep their Big Brother hands off us!
I’m not the only blogger unhappy by the pro-tem committee’s straying so pointedly into the political arena when its originally announced aim was supposedly apolitical, and for bloggers' interests. Well, may I say with all due respect to my blogging friends that at this stage, the title ‘All-bloggers’ may be a bit of a misnomer.
Needless to say, Anwar Ibrahim and PKR have welcomed the visit with glee and made the appropriate announcement on its website. The visit will be milked for whatever PR advantage they can obtain.
Now, this is not to say that the individual blogger may not have political affiliation. Indeed, it would be an anathema to the principle of freedom of expression to curb any blogger from supporting a party through his/her blog.
The reality is many such politically inclined blogs already exist – and we’re not counting those manned by the political parties or personalities such as Lim Kit Siang, Shahrir Samad, Anwar Ibrahim, etc.
Unfortunately there is also a fallacy to presume that all bloggers (save those who are known to be pro-BN) are automatically pro-opposition or even pro-Anwar Ibrahim.
Yes, many of us are non-aligned and non-affiliated, thereby reserving the right to criticise policies, dodgy actions or double standard hypocrisy on both sides of the political fence or even to defend any ‘underdog’ or those we feel have been unfairly subjected to salacious smear campaigns.
Call us loose cannons if you like ;-)
Politics is a dirty business, and the current freedom of blogging has unfortunately seen the dirt level raised, or perhaps the correct word should be ‘lowered’ to a new viciousness. Argumentum ad hominem is not new but now rendered at cyber speed by a mere click of the ‘Publish’ button.
I have sadly witnessed the author of a letter to the Star Online being attacked ad hominen because she wrote something unfavourable to PKR regarding its defeat in Ijok. Instead of only addressing/rebutting the points in her letter, the attacks viciously dissected her employment record (and an incorrect one too) on the Net for all to see, obviously to discredit her rather than just the points she raised.
There seems to be a fanatical intolerance by cyber-jihadist (not of the Islamic kind) that would descend to such guttersnipe level. And if anyone were to be described as a ‘katak’, good lord, who’s the bloke who went from Abim to Umno to PKR to …… now, that’s who!
Khoo in his letter to malaysiakini observed:
"In the last decade, we have seen an unhealthy corporate culture creeping into the newsrooms. [...]."
Well, there is also a different kind of unhealthy culture creeping into some blogs.
Khoo continued: "Zainuddin should not resort to intimidation and fear tactics to rattle the bloggers or citizen journalists because this is simply not going to work. He and his colleagues might as well try to change their own mindsets and embrace the New Media while it is still not too late."
Well said, Khoo, and may I also hope that bloggers would not resort to argumentum ad hominen as intimidation and fear tactics when their beliefs or ideology are criticised.
Of course there’s also civilised society’s question of: ‘Were/are you behaving like a gentleman?’