Research on Malaysian Bloggers

The Survey for Blog Readers and Bloggers is closed. Thanks for your participation!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Book Published =)

So here's the book that was based on my thesis =D

Title: Blogging and Democratization in Malaysia - A New Civil Society in the Making
Authors: Jun-E Tan and Zawawi Ibrahim
Publisher: SIRD, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

Back cover commentaries:
Before the 12th Malaysian General Election, bloggers were called numerous, often unflattering, names by Malaysian government officials and other unsavoury charaters. Virtually immediately after the election results, they were hailed by many, including the same unsavoury characters, as "key players" and "prime movers". Some have even gone so far as to blame the dismal election performance of the Barisan Nasional on bloggers and blogging.

Amidst all this, and the post-March 8 hype, this original, well-researched and very readable volume by upcoming Malaysian scholar, Jun-E Tan and renowned and committed social anthropologist, Zawawi Ibrahim, provides a necessary resource for those who wish to understand Malaysian blogging more comprehensively within a wider socio-political context. This volume is certainly necessary reading for Malaysians who wish to understand how the new media may or may not be able to contribute to the expansion of democratic space. And it really ought to be compulsory reading for the unsavoury characters who still refuse to understand where Malaysia is heading.

Zaharom Nain, Centre for Policy Research and International Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Jun-E Tan and Zawawi Ibrahim have written a most timely (and readable) book. The blogging phenomenon has been credited with playing an important part in the historic results of the 2008 General Election. It has also been lauded with the democratization of Malaysian public life in general. Here the authors have put together hard data coupled with interesting interviews with the main players to bring the discussion of blogs out of the realm of punditry and the anecdotal into a more studied empirical sociological sphere. For that, it is a significant work which hopefully would pave the way for similar efforts at studying the impact of new technologies on democracy in Malaysia.

Azmi Sharom, Faculty of Law, University of Malaya.
The book is priced at RM25. If you're interested to buy it, you can email me at and we'll work out something ;)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Recommendations for the National Alliance of Bloggers

I may include this in the conclusion of my thesis, so please bear with the apparent dryness of the passage! I'd be super grateful if you would care to leave any comments of assent or dissent.


The National Alliance of Bloggers (NAB) was set up on April 5, 2007, towards the completion of this thesis. Some 50 bloggers gathered at the National Press Club to discuss the necessity of forming the Alliance, and proceeded to elect a pro-tem committee to register a formal association, with physical premises, office bearers and subscription for members.

Based on the findings of this thesis, the author would like to suggest some recommendations to the NAB, which is essentially the crystallization of the virtual community into a physical entity which has the potential of leading the Malaysian blogosphere towards higher ideals of blog ethics and constructive dialogue with the authorities. On the other hand, improper management or marketing may shape the Alliance into an antagonistic character constantly against the establishment or national unity, hence affecting blogs’ ability to generate useful discourse and their credibility at large.

Objectives of the NAB
It is of utmost importance that the NAB should base the aims of its existence at a higher level, towards promoting and protecting freedom of expression and information. It should be recognized that although the formation of the Alliance was catalyzed by the lawsuit against bloggers, it is not an entity built in defiance to the authorities, but rather an entity which embraces blogging as a platform to enable civil liberties. The vision of the Alliance has to reflect the bigger picture, i.e. to pave the direction towards a more democratic and progressive Malaysia.

It was mentioned in a blog post of Ahirudin Attan, president of the pro-tem committee of NAB, that the Alliance has two major objectives, i.e. to promote blogging and to protect bloggers. It is clarified that the Alliance will try to engage the authorities and to protect bloggers against lawsuits, and to promote all forms of blogging.

Promoting blogging
There are two distinct target groups that the NAB should focus upon to promote blogging, i.e. the authorities and the non-bloggers. It is necessary to engage the authorities (or more specifically, the government) because it is important for them to be aware that bloggers are not as depicted by certain politicians, and that the feedback available on the Internet can be very useful to public policymaking. As for non-bloggers, they should be educated about the positive aspects of blogging instead of seeing the blogosphere as a massive clout of anti-establishment voices.

Hence, significant image marketing, rebranding even, is pivotal to the successful promotion of blogging by the NAB. In this case, it is inconsequential whether the bloggers within the NAB are misunderstood patriotic martyrs or otherwise, because the negative perception itself will form a barrier against understanding blogging. After establishing a moderate and credible image, the NAB should act as a platform in bringing together the government, bloggers, mainstream media and other factions of civil society by organizing talks or dialogues in triggering effective change in the country’s policies.

Engaging the Malaysian blogosphere
The findings of this thesis paints the representation of the Malaysian bloggers to be fairly young (84.5% of bloggers are aged 28 and below), and are avid readers of blogs, printed newspapers and fiction. Although this thesis gives emphasis to the sociopolitical group of bloggers within the Malaysian blogosphere, they only form 6% out of the total 852 bloggers within the sample size. If the NAB is serious on promoting (responsible) blogging and forging a united front of Malaysian bloggers, it has to engage the other 94% of the blogosphere. The NAB will only be able to collect a critical mass of bloggers by bridging the fragmentation of the Malaysian blogosphere across language, age range, blog content and political inclinations.

The blogosphere must not be forced into a framework dictated by the NAB, instead the NAB should try to preserve the diversity of the blogosphere as it is, with only a general guideline of the do’s and don’ts provided. In other words, it should be recognized and encouraged that blogging is a personal activity for self-expression or any other motivation that the blogger sees fit. This is a crucial criterion for NAB to garner the acceptance of bloggers in general. Further marketing is naturally needed to persuade the bloggers to become members of the NAB.

Protecting bloggers
Protection of bloggers has to be proactive in the sense of equipping them with necessary knowledge of legal implications of what they write, and a general code of ethics to abide by. As the NAB will be championing for freedom of expression, self-regulation will have to balance on the thin line between allowing as much room of expression possible, and maintaining a certain standard of responsibility of blogging. In the event of a lawsuit against a blogger, the NAB will be able to provide support in terms of legal advice and a consolidated group of voices, but the NAB should also respect the right of seeking redress by the plaintiffs.

The NAB has the potential to link the entire social network of Malaysian blogs for efficient communication of vital information and constructive opinions for the country’s progress, from the grassroots level to policymakers. As mentioned in earlier sections of the thesis, the networks within the blogosphere can amplify important signals while suppressing noise through communication. The opportunity to get heard can infuse the youth of the country with a sense of empowerment that they are able to participate in steering the country towards a better direction.

Granted, the present framework of the government administration may need more time to adapt to the fast-changing landscape due to globalization, and its gradual inability of containing information of public interest. Thus, the NAB will have to shoulder the responsibility to educate the government about blogging, and concurrently prepare the blogosphere towards mature discourse and consciousness about its role in a democratic society.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

80% of unemployed bloggers are women?

In response to Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan's allegations of "out of 10,000 unemployed bloggers, 8,000 are women", below is my comment based on the data collection I did back in November - December 2006.

Out of my sample size of 852 Malaysian bloggers/bloggers in Malaysia, only 22 (2.58%) are unemployed. Out of these 22 people, 13 (59%) are females. Therefore, I would like to ask the Minister where he got his data of 10,000 unemployed bloggers from, and if I could get my hands on the research he had done.

It would be most helpful if he could also elaborate on the part of bloggers being liars and a threat to national unity.

Check the original news report (in Chinese) from Sin Chew Jit Poh here.

p/s. On research matters: I have given up putting up datelines 'coz I'll end up busting them anyway. Will update when I do finish.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Research Updates

Sorry for keeping you waiting guys!

Literature review and quantitative analysis are completed, the rest are still in the progress of writing. Just received news that I have to restructure the layout, so that may take some extra time. I promised my supervisor that the first draft will be out before Chinese New Year.

I'll post some findings on this blog after I finish the thesis, so stay tuned!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bloggers sued: A chronology of events

For up to date developments of the case, do check out the Bloggers United Official Page, or the Walk With Us blog.

11 Jan 2007: A thread was opened at with the following post:

Blogger politikus terkenal Ahiruddin Attan @ Rocky Bru dan Jeff Ooi telah dihantar notis oleh Kalimullah Hassan, Brendan Perreira dan Hishamuddin Aun untuk menarik balik beberapa artikel artikel dalam blog mereka. Kegagalan akan menyebabkan mereka disaman.

Dalam masa yang sama juga, blogger "poster wayang" terkenal, Sheih @ kickdefella juga akan diambil tindakan tetapi belum diketahui lagi tindakan yang jenis bagaimana.

Translated: Socio-political bloggers Ahiruddin Attan @ Rocky Bru and Jeff Ooi have been sent warnings by
Kalimullah Hassan, Brendan Perreira dan Hishamuddin Aun to retract a few articles from their blogs. The failure to do so will get them sued.

At the same time, "film poster" blogger Sheih @ kickdefella will also be taken action upon. It is not known what kind of actions will be taken.

12 January 2007: Merdekareview reported this:

【本刊林宏祥撰述】由于在部落格张贴批评《新海峡时报》(New Straits Times)与高层的贴文,著名Screenshots部落客黄泉安及Rocky's Bru部落客阿西鲁丁(Ahirudin bin Attan)接获信函,限令他们取下其部落格的相关文章,否则将被起诉;另外,以改编电影海报讽刺首相阿都拉巴达威闻名的KickDeFella部落客Sheih也接获类似信函,惟诉方并非来自新海峡时报集团。

此消息在巫统虚拟网站俱乐部KMU)上已经引起热烈的讨论,在前首相马哈迪与阿都拉角力期间,部分舆论力指《新海峡时报》高层阿都拉女婿凯里(Khairy Jamaluddin朋党,阿都拉智囊团大本营。因此,三名部落客的遭遇被视为惩戒“逆着阿都拉激流”(menentang arus AAB-Abdullah Ahmad Badawi)的行动。[...]

Translation: Because of blog posts criticisizing the NST and its higher level management, famous bloggers Jeff Ooi of Screenshots and Ahirudin bin Attan of RockyBru have received letters to retract articles in question or be sued in court. Blogger Sheih of KickDeFella, famous for his film posters poking fun at the PM has also got similar letters, but not from the NSTP.

This piece of news has been discussed heatedly in the Kumpulan Menyokong UMNO Forum (KMU). In the battle between former PM Mahathir and Abdullah Badawi, some sources have pointed that the higher level officials of NST are connected to the PM's son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin and they are part of the PM's camp. Therefore, this case is seen as the consequence of going against AAB. [...]

13 Jan 2007: Sheih from Kickdefella launches the "Bloggers United" campaign, urging bloggers to put the following image on their blogs, in support of free speech for bloggers.

14 Jan 2007: Veteran journalist, Nuraini A. Samad blogs about the affair.

18 Jan 2007: Rocky and Jeff confirm that they have been served papers, here and here.

From Rocky:
Unchartered waters. None of us have passed this way before, so I shall have to tread carefully. I'll need you to tread carefully, too, when you leave your comments.
I have been served the papers. They dropped them on Tuesday evening, around 9.30 pm, at the National Press Club. They are applying for an injunction against Rocky's Bru, this blog. They are suing me for libel.
[They have also served Jeff Ooi of Screenshots the papers].

In the case against me, "they" are:

1. The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad (No. Syarikat 4485-H)
2. Kalimullah Bin Masheerul Hassan
3. Hishamuddin Bin Aun
4. Syed Faisal Albar Bin Syed A.R. Albar
5. Brenden John a/l John Pereira

The plaintiffs have cited 48 postings (under Schedule 1, the List of Defamatory Articles complained of in the Statement of Claims filed in this action).
I am now looking for a lawyer to represent me.
The application for injunction comes up on Jan 25 at the High Court.
Thank you for the support. God bless.

And from Jeff:
The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad, Kalimullah bin Masheerul Hassan, Hishamuddin bin Aun and Brendan John a/l John Pereira have jointly taken an order, via an ex-parte injunction obtained in the High Court of Malaya Kuala Lumpur (Civil Suit No. S6-23-3-2007) on January 11, 2007, against this blogger.

The abovementioned parties' application for an injunction has been fixed for a hearing at the same court on January 30, 2007 at 9.00am.

My lawyers are now taking care of it.

Meanwhile, Screenshots was informed that journo-blogger Ahiruddin Attan (Rocky's Bru) has been served January 16 a Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim by the New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad and four others, dated January 11.

The parties' application for an injunction against Rocky has been fixed for a hearing on January 25, 2007.

Malaysiakini picks up the story here. Besides all that were covered previously, Malaysiakini provides further context of what might be the source of defamation, i.e.:

In Nov 2006, Ahirudin and Jeff were embroiled in controversy with NSTP when they revealed that a column in the New Straits Times on Oct 30 under group editor Brendan Pereira’s by-line bore a strong resemblance in style and structure to a column by Mitch Albom in the Detroit Free Press of Sept 10, 2006.

The NSTP later announced that Pereira will end his term of service as group editor of NST on Dec 31 and rejected the allegations of plagiarism.

They have also alleged that Kallimullah and NST are Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s spin doctors.

Bloggers of English, Malay and Chinese languages have all lent their support to this case in the form of posting the "Bloggers United" image. See here for the compilation of a list by another blogger.

This case does not only affect the fore-runners of socio-political blogging in Malaysia - the result of the battle of David(s) against Goliath will clarify the actual power of freedom of speech online in Malaysia. If won, this may very well be the second major scalp against mainstream media. The case lost may, in Tony Pua's words, "scare the rest of the foot soldiers into submission and anonymity".

Read injunction and libel in Wikipedia for further information.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Radio Interview from Blogwatch, RSI

About two weeks ago I was contacted by Joel Chua from Radio Singapore International who was interested about my research. The interview happened last week and was aired officially on 5th January 2006 (Friday).

Listen to the interview here: Blogwatch: Malaysian Government. It features me and Rocky.

The interview transcript can be found here.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Completion of Data Collection

Data collection of the research has come to an end. I have 1540 respondents (English version - 1364; Malay - 176) for my online survey. There were 3 sets of faulty data which I deleted, so right now I have in my hands the end result of 1537 blog readers, of whom 852 are bloggers.

Qualitative data collection also came to an end about 2 weeks ago, with 11 people interviewed. 10 were bloggers, and I also managed to talk to Steven Gan of Malaysiakini.

Currently I am busy analyzing information from the survey database. I'm also working on the actual manuscript, but hardly at a breakneck speed considering my tight deadline. *grimace*

I will post a summary of the findings here after I submit the thesis. First draft will hopefully be ready by mid January.