Saturday, August 04, 2007

PABS calls on Government to embrace bloggers

PABS takes a look at the letter column of malaysiakini, and discovers a couple of letters criticising the government for its anti bloggers attitude.

One example is Faizul Zainol’s For every fallen blogger, two will rise up. He wrote:

“The reason why people believe in alternative media more than mass circulation media is simply because the mass circulation media refuses to carry both sides of the story. People are not out for blood when they criticise politicians or those in power - why wouldn't we be happy if those in power are indeed accountable, responsible and competent?”

“The point is, the government is quick to lay blame on bloggers as liars, and doubly quick at investigating them, while, on the other hand, it takes forever to probe alleged embezzlement of public funds and other wrongdoings by those in power.”

... so on so forth, with Faizul concluding that “...every fallen blogger, there will be two to replace him.”

As Faizul had also said in his letter, bloggers in general are responsible citizens.

I agree.

Other than those active in, or allied, affiliated and aligned with political parties, socio-political bloggers use their websites to express their perception, their feelings, and their opinions on politics, public governance, performance (of ministers and public servants) and promises (by ministers, fulfilled or otherwise).

One and one-half years ago, I posted Are Bloggers & their Readers indulging in Graffiti? where I stated (some extracts):

Many bloggers and participants who post their comments on the blog may not be aware that a large number of them have been actually indulging in graffiti-like activities. Now, most of us are aware that graffiti, as we understand the term, are symptoms of rebellious protestations or uninhibited expressions of energetic individuals, who might have acted alone or as a pack, in deep cover or in semi-open defiance.

Energetic people, mostly youngsters, vent their pent-up emotions, frustrations, or even artistic aspiration spiced with a touch of rebellion or defiance, on such painted expressions. Some authorities have wisely recognized the graffitists search for 'canvases' to express their creativity. Those authorities have cleverly chosen to 'go to the mountain' by installing special graffiti walls and areas in towns and cities. These are subtle channeling, rather than control, of youth's powerful energy into harmless exhibits.

Of course, blogging has since then taken a big step into the political world. The opposition parties have been faster in embracing the new media, perhaps because they were/are denied access to the government linked mainstream media.

Disgracefully, the ruling party has in the main neglected this new 21st Century medium of public communication – a reflection of their staff incompetence and/or complete arrogance in believing they have absolute control of the media.

When they eventually stumbled onto the existence of the Malaysian blogosphere, and realized that the voice of public dissatisfaction is loud and clear on the Web, (apart from giving thanks to god that their heartland is still pretty devoid of Internet-capable PCs/laptops) they reacted with typical Nazi-like behaviour, heavily with unrestrained force – hauling webmasters in for hours, if not days of interrogation. OK, they have the police at their beck and call.

But how will such acts of intimidation curb the voice of the dissatisfied?

As I had posted: Sure, bloggers can be a pain in publishing information that the authorities may not wish to be released to the public, but unless a government has something to hide, the advantages of blogging to the government is far greater than its disadvantages.

Thus, if carefully streamed and tolerated, graffiti activities can be a useful means of moderating and calming the sometimes overpoweringly exuberance of our more energetic citizens.

Instead we see UMNO/government (really there is no difference here) adopting a negative approach in what RPK of Malaysia-Today had alleged as using paid cyber-sabotaging-hoodlums to plant poisonous seeds in targeted blogs so as to subsequently refer to those grafted seditious comments as ‘justified’ cause to suspend a blog or detain the blogger.

Then my previous posting added: Unfettered protestations of idealism, freedom of expressions, unrestricted space to be creative, unique, individualistic, independent from control and even a need for anonymous recognition - these are the raison d'ĂȘtres of graffiti. Therefore, any attempt by authorities to heavy-handedly control or restrict these activities would result in the graffitists going underground and behaving in more extreme and undesirable fashion.

No, not yet Amen as I haven’t finished ...

In America, Daily Kos is an active leftwing blog that has campaigned very effectively in an attempt to end the US involvement in the Iraqi war, and woe betides any politician in their target. Daily Kos is also a fund raiser for politicians of their choice, with many rightwing pollies feeling the painful impact of Kos' funded campaign for their opponents.

It has been reported that last year, Daily Kos raised and directed funds to no less than 20 Democratic House challengers, who were initially discounted by the party. Half of them came home winners, with several near-miss winners.

So presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who had been targeted by Daily Kos because of her earlier support for the war in Iraq, has decided that she wants to embrace the scary blog rather than fight (futilely) against it.

Apart from her, those attending the Kos convention will include Barack Obama and former VP candidate John Edwards. In fact almost all the Democratic presidential candidates will be courting the Kos people at the convention.

In like fashion, I would encourage the government to embrace the Malaysian socio-political bloggers. Provide them with easily accessible and correct information, for a dearth of such information would be precisely what would lead to rumour mongering, speculations and salacious, scurrilous, smearing ‘mythology’.

Of course, don’t expect all of them to fall into line to vote for the ruling party, but no blogger would then be able to accuse the government, especially its Information Ministry of draconian Goebbels-like nonsense.

As for the Allblogs*, apart from their high profile visit to the de facto leader of an opposition party, its protem chairperson alluding to support for the PPPA and some of its protem committeee members' preference for registration of only identity-revealed bloggers as members of its association, I wonder what else can it do to protect bloggers and promote blogging, as its committee had envisioned.

Perhaps it protem deputy president Jeff Ooi, also of the DAP, can shed some light - mind you, not on what the DAP would do, but what Allblogs intends.

* Allblogs is not to be confused with the different but excellent BUM committee who organized a great social at the LVK

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