Posts Tagged 'Blogging'

When the blog gets popular, the popular gets blocked?

What do you do when a blog becomes too popular for the liking of the powers-that-be?

Well, it appears that a ‘solution’ has been found: you just gazette it as a ‘political association’ — with all the accompanying rules that govern a political entity.

Below is the comment made by the blog’s (The Online Citizen) columnist, Leong Sze Hian, regarding the turn of event as posted in Malaysiakini:

I would like to devote my weekly column for this week to the Singapore blog The Online Citizen (TOC).

I have been a columnist for TOC since it started in December 2006, and have written over 300 articles. Recently the Singapore government has emailed TOC to inform them that it will be gazetted a as political association.

That means TOC is now required to declare its owners, editorial team, administrators, and designate a president, treasurer and secretary in accordance with the regulations.

The move also means the website will be barred from receiving funds from foreign donors and from allowing foreigners to participate in its events.

What does this mean for my regular ‘Uniquely Singapore’ column on TOC?

Well, for starters, under the rules for a political association, I will not be able to write, report, analyse or comment about the elections, when the next election expected to take place this year comes.

Since there is a prohibition on affiliating with any political party or supporting any political candidate, does it mean that I cannot write about a political party’s manifesto, or interview a political candidate, etc?

A world’s first

Since TOC is also required to be registered with the Media Development Authority (MDA), does it mean that I will be subject to censorship under the MDA’s rules, and just like say RTM, be wary of putting up ‘undesirable’ content?

TOC has sent an appeal to Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong to reconsider the gazetting.

Singaporeans, Singaporean bloggers, and perhaps their counterparts and proponents of freedom of expression all over the world may be holding their breath, as this saga continues. 

Will history be made, as a group of citizen bloggers who are all volunteers – with not a single full-time staff, and no funding – become the first blogging web site in the world to be gazetted by a government as a political association? The deadline given to TOC to comply is 24 January. 

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Charge of the light brigade

Like everything else in contemporary Malaysian life, this piece requires a caveat before I can really begin to write without being painfully misunderstood or, worse, getting myself into trouble by having some serious-looking blokes lodging a police report against me. 

I am saying this because I am reminded of the reported case of a Malaysian blogger, writing by his cyber name of Hassan Skodeng, who got himself into trouble for having written a satirical piece or parody about the powerhouse Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB). He is to be charged in court today (Sept. 2, 2010) under Section 233(1)(a) of the Multimedia and Communications Act 1998, for allegedly “creating and spreading lies with the malicious intent to hurt others.” If found guilty, he is punishable by imprisonment up to a year and/or fine of RM50,000 or less. No laughing matter here. 

According to a news report in The Star today (Sept. 2, 2010), Skodeng’s article asserted that TNB would be suing WWF for organising an ‘Earth Hour’ campaign, which was costing the corporation ‘millions in unrealised revenue’. 

To be sure, I am not trying to make light of this case as it does appear that the authorities concerned have taken this supposedly satire rather seriously. Come to think of it, perhaps there’s a blessing in disguise from this episode in that satires are finally taken seriously by people who matter — instead of being merely dismissed as balderdash.

For the rest of the article, see here.

‘Unethical’ bloggers, take note

At the presentation of the 2009 ExxonMobil Journalism Awards, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein drew a line between some bloggers and local journalists.

The former, he emphasised, do not adhere to the rules and ethics of journalism while the latter do.

In other words, bloggers as a whole should hold local journalists up as a paragon of virtue.

But such ministerial exhortation somehow doesn’t seem to sit well with the kind of mischievous and unethical reporting and writing that certain mainstream newspapers and their journalists have of late been dishing out to the Malaysian readers.

This is particularly so when it comes to the issue of ‘race’ and religion to the extent that all forms of journalism ethics are thrown out the window.

Isn’t one of the principles of journalism ethics a journalist’s commitment to the pursuit of truth and justice?

See here and here for full story.

Blocking the Malaysian blogosphere

So it looks like Malaysia is about to tread the path taken by China, a country where freedom of expression and dissent are frowned upon, if not criminalised.

According to Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insider, the government plans to filter websites that are ‘undesirable’. Malaysians, particularly those who are concerned about democracy and civil liberties, would find it extremely difficult to believe that the present government has some degree of appreciation for freedom of information, media freedom and freedom of expression if this censorship plan were to materialise.

And this plan would certainly fly in the face of Mahathir Mohamad whose previous administration had given the guarantee in 1996 that there would not be censorship of the Internet — as a way of attracting foreign investments to the much touted project of his, Multimedia Super Corridor.  

What has triggered the government to take this path? There are a number of possible reasons, one of which is that there is much dissent expressed within Malaysia’s blogging community to the extent that it causes political embarassment and, to a certain degree, electoral losses to the government. In other words, the ruling coalition’s political hegemony is being undermined.

Another is that views and news found in the virtual world make much of the mainstream media, which are closely aligned to the government, look silly, if not incredible, as they often resort to the distortion of social reality.

This tendency of not listening to criticisms, dissent and truth would only bring about an increasing rate of disconnect between the government and the rakyat, which can be politically unhealthy in the long run. 

The upshot of all this is that Malaysia’s democratic space will obviously be further constrained.

Come together, bloggers

Information, Communication, Arts and Culture Minister Rais Yatim reportedly threw a party on Wednesday in an apparent endeavour to get to know Malaysian bloggers.

But alas, as it turned out, not all bloggers were invited, particularly those who were perceived to be ‘critical’ of the BN government. So much for engaging bloggers.

This was also the occasion, according to the Malaysiakini report, where the minister warned bloggers that laws that were meant to regulate the media and communications would not be used against them as long as “they were serious and ethical in their writing”.

So ‘serious’ bloggers, take note.

‘Controversial blogs’ that attract Home Ministry

The Home Ministry is looking out for those blogs that can ‘confuse’ unsuspecting Malaysians regarding certain issues it considers controversial. That is, ‘naughty blogs’ posting comments that can ‘pose a threat to public security’.

Here’s the story from The Star:

KUALA LUMPUR: The Home Ministry is monitoring blogs to check if bloggers are posting comments that confuse the people on controversial issues.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung said that at the moment, the ministry was merely advising bloggers against the misuse of blogs.

“So far, we are only telling them not to use their blogs as a mechanism to confuse people or as a weapon against those they don’t like,” he said on Tuesday when asked about bloggers posting comments on the National Fatwa Council’s edict banning Muslims from practising yoga.

“However, if the comments are deemed as posing a threat to public security, we will view them seriously,” he said, adding that it would be left to the minister to act on such cases.

“The ministry is always monitoring developments in the blogosphere,” Chor said after the launch of the National Anti-Drug Agency’s new programme, Rakan Anti-Dadah (Rada), to eradicate drug abuse.

Pahang blogosphere has a silver lining?

Three pensioners have been recruited by the Pahang state government as bloggers ‘to thwart slanderous comments and allegations posted on the Internet’.

According to The Star, the bloggers would be paid allowances and ‘provided with computers and the Internet access in their homes’.