PETALING JAYA, 10 Dec 2008: Online journalists and bloggers may face greater scrutiny in the future compared to traditional media workers, warns human rights group Aliran.
Its joint coordinator Mustafa K Anuar said this future scenario was likely, as some bloggers here have already been hauled up or detained for their postings.
Mustafa, who is from Charter2000-Aliran, admitted that although there were bloggers who relied on unverified sources for stories, there were also those who were careful with their stories, analyses and comments.
“It is these online writers and bloggers that the powers-that-be are concerned about, especially if these writers are able to side-step the official censorship mechanisms and at the same time command a sizeable following,” he told The Nut Graph in a telephone interview.
Mustafa was commenting on a report by New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on imprisoned journalists.
The non-profit organisation found that more online journalists and bloggers were jailed compared to those in other media. Some 45% of media workers jailed worldwide in 2008, as of 1 Dec, were bloggers, web-based reporters, or online editors.
China had the highest number of journalists and bloggers who were jailed, followed by Cuba and Burma, the report stated. Malaysia was not included in the survey.
(image source: wikipedia.org)
Mustafa felt that the CPJ findings did not reflect the local situation. Although there have been a few cases of bloggers being targeted by the authorities, in general, online journalists here do not face as high a possibility of persecution as some of the countries mentioned in the CPJ report.
“Having said that, I believe that these (limited Malaysian) cases are meant to warn other bloggers and online writers who might have the penchant for news-breaking stories, incisive analyses and critical commentaries about the Malaysian socio-political situation,” he said.
Among the prominent bloggers who were arrested this year were Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin and Syed Azidi Syed Aziz, who is known as Kickdefella.
Raja Petra was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) on 12 Sept 2008 and sentenced to two years in the Kamunting Detention Centre. But he was released on 7 Nov. Syed Azidi, on the other hand, ran afoul of the Sedition Act when he suggested flying the Jalur Gemilang upside down on his blog. The blogger, whose case is still pending, is out on bail.
Writer Alliance for Media Independence (Wami) chairperson Wong Chin Huat told The Nut Graph that it would be better for Malaysia to produce its own national media freedom report.
He felt that the methodology used by most international media freedom reports may not be suitable or fair as a yardstick to measure media freedom in Malaysia.
But generally, Wong was pessimistic about the future of online media here.
“Until and unless we can change the paradigm of our thinking, our freedom will be limited.
“But based on my observations, we have more freedom now to talk about ethnic-related issues, for example, or to criticise a political leader, compared to 10 years ago,” he noted.