Research on Malaysian Bloggers

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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.

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Introduction
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.

Conclusion
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.

18 Comments:

  • Are you in a position to offer more specific recommendations as to how to help protect the interested socio-political blogger from legal lawsuits? Eg, actual law classes that teach us how to go about writing about sensitive issues that may result in the use of the sedition act or the Internal Security Act against us?

    Otherwise I found this recommendation article to be well and professionally written. But of course, I am just an amateur when it comes to social-political research.

    Keep up the good work! =).

    By Blogger Jazzi, at 8:34 AM  

  • Hi June,
    thanks for the write-up. will study your recommendations. in your thesis, can you refer the alliance as All Blogs (All= Alliance and Blogs=Bloggers)?
    p.s. it also means the alliance is open to all bloggers!


    remember, wait for the call. and yes, smoking is baaaad.
    thank you.

    By Blogger Rocky's Bru, at 5:53 PM  

  • Jazzi: What I wanted to do was just to give a general direction of what I envisage the NAB (or All Blogs, though it sounds a little too general for my liking =P) to be. Probably they will have task groups to work on the specifics. Thanks for the encouragement!

    Rocky: Thanks for being so receptive =) Hope that more ideas will come through to contribute to the NAB/All Blogs' success!

    By Blogger Jun-E, at 12:19 AM  

  • pls see the singapore code for reference --

    http://www.mda.gov.sg/wms.www/devnpolicies.aspx?sid=

    it's not ideal as i think it can be rather onerous on sites deemed to be 'political' or sexual. otherwise, it aint so bad lah.

    By Blogger Sophie, at 1:09 AM  

  • wow, and you're smacked in the middle of this blogobrew during its infancy. Ought to be a kick-a$$ thesis June!

    By Blogger mob1900, at 2:48 AM  

  • Being a pessimist, these are some issues that NAB or All Blogs will have to avoid:

    1. Backlash from the grassroots

    Any and all forms to regulate the Internet will be met with extremely powerful resistance from the majority of the losers on the Internet.

    All the teenage girls who masturbate to Johnny Depp's pictures and fans of Maria Ozawa will retaliate in a most disabling manner.

    Rather than fear a minister saying "All blogs should be registered", NAB have to be careful not to let too many bloggers to be able to say: "These fuckers think they matter. LOL!" or "They want to speak to us. LOL!"

    2. Inbreeding of ideologies

    I do believe that the NAB run the risk of being perceived as too absorbed with itself and its self-importance.

    I mean, okay, fine with that. What's the problem? Well, an image like this, as what has been suggested by a few bloggers right now can actually result in a PR nightmare.

    And you need good PR for this.

    3. Implementation of stupid codes and regulations.

    Trying to implemet codes and tell people what to do will not work. PR nightmare. Blablabla.

    4. Losing the focus of the simple, original mission. If NAB becomes something other than primarily CBLDF and start creating exclusive cliques, then it's doomed.

    Well, not really, but...it's doomed.

    So far, everything looks okay. In fact, Rocky addressed a lot of these worying issues in his very first speech about NAB. This, however, will not stop some idiots to try and make NAB look stupid - It's a Malaysian sport.

    By Blogger amir, at 2:56 AM  

  • It is imperative that one distinguishes the "right" to criticise, oppose and vilify whatever and whoever, with the dastardly act of "slandering" whoever sans proof nor evidence of alleged malfeasance, no matter what the media utilised is!

    As such, it is good to see that "accountability" of bloggers is reinforced in your proposal.

    This, in my mind, is the "grey" area that many supporting our 2 esrtwhile bloggers facing defamation suits are most probably unclear of.

    The accusers claim "defamatory", the bloggers say it's "freedom of speech" - well, I say, let the Courts decide then!

    By Anonymous Ahmad Ikhlas, at 7:56 AM  

  • Dude, you're so fucking gay.

    By Blogger amir, at 11:39 AM  

  • I must violently object to the inferences in Ahmad Ikhlas's comment that "many supporting our 2 esrtwhile bloggers facing defamation suits are most probably unclear of" the "grey area".

    My sincere position upon taking into account inside story (sufficiently confirmed for my conviction) is as per my comment that was made a posting on Walk With Us in the early part of Rocky's case. As he says, "let the Courts decide then!". So, such patronising generalisation, which is just doubting Thomases, I do not welcome at all.

    I had the same thought as per June's article above but it would not be something I would be concerned off. As in all NGO and organisation, it is a common limitation. At the end of the day, it is practicality will be the mainstay. The real challenge and mission is to sustain the spirit of Bloggers brotherhood, or sisterhood or any gender correct hood.

    If I could contribute a comment for her, it would to propose a more positive Government response to the Blogging phenomenon.

    Government reaction, (that include the ruling party and politicians response) from a defensive reaction, then offensive which seemed to turn onto a suppresive mode, has been negative.

    Government reaction should be more towards pushing for a more mature and open society willing to debate and trash out all the taboo. They should be embracing blogging and be more equiped to embrace open discussion. One positive response is to actually promote free, civil and informational public discussion, particularly in MSM. That means no more spin, half truth and self interst censureship.

    I believe Jabatan Perpaduan Masyarakat shd even see Blogging and Bloggers as the model for racial integration. Since physical segregated is a reality, then let us have racial integration in spirit via Blogging! Crazy idea.

    One area NAB could in its educational program is in the IT technical and creativity aspect of Blogging to make Malaysian Blogs more interesting to read. The reason I seek for them to look into this is becasue over time there will be a massive competition for eyeball, just like in the early days of Internet.

    I also wonder why is it Internet website have reviews but yet no review be it in newspaper and magazines or even on websites. Voila thats a good new idea for a new blog. A Blog to review Blog and let the Blog owner have a say and other blog have a say too. Perhaps you could Blog on this, when you finish with yr thesis. Do make a pdf copy for all of us to download, eh!

    By Blogger A Voice, at 12:12 PM  

  • Forgotten in para 2 that Rocky's case means Jeff's cse too. How can I forget Malaysia's first blogger?

    By Blogger A Voice, at 12:17 PM  

  • Haven't quite made up my mind if having an association is good or bad.Sometimes it comes across like a mutual admiration club. RB coos to Jln Sudin, and she coos back, on and on. Don't pooh pooh this... am sure there are ppl out there who get this idea too.
    Could this assoc already have an image problem?
    Are ALL bloggers welcomed? Even those who deal with life's trivialities?
    Someone asked elsewhere if NAB will come to ALL bloggers' aid if they get into trouble? This person asked what if someone who has smut on his blog gets into trouble, will NAB help?
    Does a blogger who wishes to remain anonymous get to be a member? Or u only have to register your site and then only get admitted. Er, how does this differ frm authorities wanting to register bloggers?
    Joeman

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:36 PM  

  • Dear All,
    Thanks for the comments and I'll try to compile them into a single piece later on.

    Please don't hesitate to voice out any concerns or suggestions, as I believe that NAB/All Blogs is an entity for every blogger in Malaysia. So do keep the discussion going!

    By Blogger Jun-E, at 4:49 PM  

  • like i said... i think this NAB is sort of digging out own graves... more details later.

    By Blogger zewt, at 3:25 AM  

  • Hi
    Just posted a comment on Magpie's blog on "SELF-AGGRANDIZEMENT AT ITS BEST". Perhaps you may want to have a look at the topical posting and the comments generated...
    cheers
    March16

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:27 PM  

  • The posting referred to by Anonymous is this

    By Blogger Jun-E, at 10:48 AM  

  • actually mr anonymous joeman. dont be unduly sceptical. even a mischievous person like you should not be afraid to join the alliance. yes yes., it is that too -- a mutual admiration club. no, we wont pooh-pooh your mischievous and malicious remarks (what else could thhey be?) about rocky and jalan sudin. tsk tsk tsk. we all coo coo moo moo over each other. Mob1900 over June, malay male over politikus, malay male over mob1900, june over politikus, maybe susan loone. ok, whaat?
    come join us. me joeman. even someone like you, no problem. diversity, man. the good the bad and the ugly, all welcome.

    By Blogger the sentinel, at 10:27 PM  

  • Good write-up.

    I have been talking with a few people about the growth of blogging activities in Malaysia and I had never forgotten to mention about this concern of mine.

    My concern and I'm still trying to work it out -- The very funny thing in Malaysia is, Web 2.0 has grown pretty unbalanced, a lot of features are missing.

    By Blogger Yuen-Chi Lian, at 8:43 AM  

  • Jun-E, say what you want but the government will not be happy as long as there are blogs that criticised it.
    And since it has no answer to most of the criticisms, it will go all out to snuff them out.
    There is no solution to the problem unless all bloggers are prepared to write very tame blogs or write only those that praise the government.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:15 PM  

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