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Malaysia: Bloggers’ pre-emptive strike

Freedom of speech or is it blatant abuse of Internet as a channel for expression? Come over to Malaysia.

Just as the Singaporean government was hauling in three bloggers within a week and charging them under the Sedition Act, Malaysian bloggers are getting equally jittery over seditious commentaries being posted by readers in their blogs, and over their potential legal ramifications.

September 14, blogger Jeff Ooi, who was threatened with imprisonment without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA) last October for a seditious remark on Islam left by a reader, responded to the Singapore incident by mooting the idea of “defensive blogging”. He quoted an excerpt of “Guide for bloggers and cyberdissident”, which will be released in full by Reporters Without Borders on September 22. The guideline is to inform bloggers how to “set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles”.

In a nutshell, Malaysia's cyberlaw has stated prominently that…

The Online environment is not a legal vacuum. In general, if something is illegal “off-line”, it will also be illegal “on-line”. In this matter, the relevant existing laws apply.

There is, apparently, a reason for some widely-read blogs like Screenshots and BrandMalaysia to start talking about upholding the Social Responsibility of Internet and Online Content aggregators, way before the Singapore incidents erupted. They both pointed to the guidelines included in the Content Code, which is an extension of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

September 16, The Malay Mail frontpaged blogger Peter Tan (picture below), who wanted an Internet troll who went by the nickname of “good man” to face the wrath of law.

Apparently, “good man” had written a seditious message in the commentaries section of Peter’ blog while he was attending an on-site seminar for the disabled, and was disconnected from Internet for several days. While criticising the Muslim-Malays in Malaysia for being responsible for myriad social ills, “good man” also urged Malaysia's major ethnic community, who are also known as “princes of earth” (bumiputra) to return to their historical homeland in Indonesia.

When Peter was alerted by a friend of the offensive commentary, Peter, who is a paraplegic, had to get his web-host to shut down his blog as he could only attend to the matter after completing the seminar.

On the same day Peter Tan went frontpage, blogger MackZukifli's blog commentary section was also delivered a seditious message of similar nature.

Related to that, political blog Politics101Malaysia reported of other weblogs that had been spammed by similar troll. The victims included parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, who also blogs, quicktopic, and other forums.

September 17, both Peter and MackZulkifli (www.brandmalaysia.com) lodged police reports against “good man”, furnishing the IP address of the culprit to the police so that they could nab him. Peter said: “If this (offensive commentaries by blog readers) is allowed to go unchecked, it will give a negative impression of bloggers.”

MackZulkifli took it a step further:

Screenshots and Brand New Malaysian have repeatedly spoken about gathering a form of collective thoughts and compiling it into a manifesto, that will table out ethical considerations for bloggers, perhaps like the one that I try to impose here. We are in the midst of planning a seminar cum workshop with related bodies and will be inviting corporate bodies to participate as well. Our aim is to come out with a self-imposed set of ‘ethical considerations’ that may be the catalyst to wider positive interactions and conversations online.

It is not known what action the authorities will take subsequent to the police reports. Nevertheless, it indicates that bloggers in Malaysia are taking pre-emptive strike to prevent the Singapore crackdown from spilling over into Malaysia.

Nevertheless, there are obvious voices of dissent. One blog reader says:

Blog-owners should not make police reports or invoke laws which are subjective and liable to be abused against contributors. I can accept that they be law-abiding citizens and help the police should the police approach them. But to make police reports and disclose IP addresses voluntarily are conduct for which I have little respect.

Also read: Singapore cracks down on bloggers

10 comments

  • I don’t think Malaysian bloggers should get jittery over comments posted in their blogs, or over their potential legal ramifications. To take up the assumption of potential legal ramifications without a solid basis of proof as justification for the subsequent cause of action is an error of judgement.

    Pre-emption is a difficult issue. The law does not allow for conviction of an individual for a future crime not yet committed, no matter how certain it is that the crime will in fact be committed.

  • i agree with what that ‘one blog reader’ said.

    will this set a trend for every blogger to jump up and run to the police each time someone gave his own personal opinion that the blogger judge not right? scary isn’t it.

  • i watch with amusement how bloggers are tackling the issue. all these reports made to the police are clearly not motivated by any desire to uphold free speech – but to protect their asses as bloggers. the art of eating the cake and keeping has been fine-tuned by these bloggers as anyone can see by a visit to the site. the selective censorship being practised makes a mockery of the way these bloggers administer their site.

    merely making police reports ought not to give these bloggers immunity they seek from prosecution.

  • […] Contoh terakhir adalah yang menimpa blogger dari Singapura yang ditangkap karena tindakan penghasutan dan rasisme, di Malaysia seorang blogger Jeff Ooi, karena penistaan agama yang dilakukan oleh pembaca blognya, terancam terkena undang-undang ISA, danyang terbaru, Peter Tan yang berencana membawa orang yang memberikan komentar melecehkan pada blognya ke jalur hukum. (http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/globalvoices/-/world/east-asia/singapore/) Cat:  What’s Goin On To Me?, Techi’es, Average Day’s | Time: 4:16 am (UTC+8)  Comments » […]

  • […] Malaysia: Bloggers’ pre-emptive strike September 19th, 2005 ______________________ […]

  • laifoongchan

    if you are too scared dont blog. go find something else to do. we look forward to bloggers to lead the way – being former journalists and all that shit, feedom of speech has special meaning to these fools.

  • sivaparanjothy

    Read the response by Jeff Ooi in the case of “Anwar” some time ago.

    JEFF OOI says to poster Anwar then ” You didn’t realise that IF shit and urine come from human beings, they are in actual fact by-products of God’s creation that even God can’t absolve from. Don’t rob Him of this glory as every thing He does, He intends it in His divine way.”

    Is there a law against crudity? Statements like this coming from a former journalist? Sheeesh… time to pull your socks guys. Spare us readers of statements that crude and gross.

  • sivaparanjothy

    totoro,

    i read your comments on screenshots. i sympathise with you. jeff ooi ought not to have let off steam on you and accuse you of “farting so many times on his blog”. cant he find another word to use?

    as a blogger this jeff ooi should not resort to the use of crude and obscene language to make a point.

  • […] Also read: Malaysia: Bloggers’ pre-emptive strike […]

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