Friday, January 19, 2007

The Silence of the Bloggers

I wrote on bloggers getting sued by the local media a few days back.

The news is now out in the open. Top Malaysian blogger, Jeff Ooi and former editor of the Malay Mail, Ahiruddin Attan (Rocky's Bru)have been served writ of summons for libel and defamation by the New Straits Times (NST) and other related individuals.

The NST, being substantially owned by UMNO, the party of the Prime Minister, is unlikely to have taken this 'momentous' decision to sue local bloggers without at least the tacit approval of the latter. In fact the grapevine has it that the plaintiff's counsel took some two months reviewing and researching the two blogs prior to the issuance of the suit. The suit hence came hot on the heels of warnings to local bloggers by deputy ministers.

I have stated on many occasions that Jeff served as my inspiration to blog almost 2 years ago. However, that doesn't mean that I agreed with all his views all the time. Differences in opinion is however, no excuse for the restriction on freedom of expression. Hence, without going into the merits of the case, the Governments overt attempts to threaten Malaysia bloggers with punitive punishments instead of reasoned arguments are abhorrent.

Of course, there's the other question of whether NST's attempt in silencing the bloggers will backfire on both the NST as well as the Government themselves? As it stands, the international news agencies are already giving prominence to the story.

In addition, within the 13 and 40 blog posts cited by the plaintiffs as defamatory in Jeff and Rocky's blogs respectively, contains statement of which their factual nature need to be contested in the courts. Hence, when these points of facts are raised and challenged in the courts, would it embarrass the plaintiffs and the Government further in such a high profile case?

More interestingly, now that the ruling party-owned NST has shown its hands in attempting to silence Jeff, will he, a self-professed card-carry Gerakan member, be willing stand as an opposition candidate for a Parliamentary seat in the next general elections?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

hmmmmm...my limited understanding is that cyberspace law is hazy about this---questions of where it's hosted etc arises?
also, i think there may not be a law for this....cos it's the internet?
well, exciting times.

Anonymous said...

Even before the details of the suit published (Rockybru mentioned its 48 posting as defamatory but not sure its 48 counts too), people are already saying this is an attempt to silence bloggers rather than have any merit in it.

This is the biggest difference between other media and the internet. That any action must have a certain amount of popular merit. You can't just railroad it and expect people to shut up. The internet democratization power gives individual the info to decide for themselves although not necessarily the intelligence.

Furthermore, if there is enough leadership in the space, then it becomes even harder because its actually then a fight for leadership in that space. With other leaders such as Sdr. Lim, Tony, and others it becomes even harder for the likes of NSTP to shove their bias views down people throat even if they have underhanded means to win the case.

Yes this thing can boomerang if its not handled properly.

Wonder if Jeff and Rocky will record video of the case and provide transcript and make it a trial on cyberspace..

Anonymous said...

I have stopped buying those newspapers long long ago! And I believe many are avoiding such newspapers
Not worth the money to buy them and read UMNO propagandas. In fact they should instead pay people to read their papers...hehe
Talk about true journalism!!!

Anonymous said...

Totally disagree with Tony on this one. You just can't blog anything in cyberspace. There's a responsibility to what you say.

I mean if they are really defamatory and its within the laws of the country to do so (to sue), then they should be ready to face the music. If you can't take the heat, please get out of the kitchen.

This is landmark case for all you bloggers out there. Take responsibility for what you write.

Tony P said...

Hey Anon 1:59,

I didn't say that freedom of the internet entails freedom to criminally defame or libel others. Like I said, I'm not writing to judge the merits (or demerits) of the case.

However, this particular case does smack to possible Government attempts to stifle discussion in the blogosphere, especially in the light of statements made by Ministers and deputy Ministers.

Another comment made on the earlier post claimed that Jeff & co would have been sued off their pants if they were in the US. I respectfully disagree on this point - mudslinging is a popular sport amongst politicians and the civil society represented by various interest groups in the US. Its certainly way dirtier than what is practised here judging by the congressional and presidential elections. However, defamatory and libel suits are few and far in between because standards set for damages, unlike most Southeast Asian nations, are set very high.

Like I said in my post, I do not agree with everything Jeff says nor with the manner in which some of the posts were presented. However, him getting sued certainly has an impact to the development of civil society beyond just the confines of his legal case.

;)

Anonymous said...

I think this is just a tip of the iceberg. And more to come from the government and government machinery to curtailed freedom of speech and expression in the cyberworld. They prefered defamatory law than the Printing, Presses and Publications Act or the ISA. Why? These draconian laws are outdated when used in the cyberworld and carries only jail sentences or fines, or freedom restricted and that person can recovered after some years, but with defamatory laws, haha.......that person will be BROKE......FOR LIFE.....and can never ever recovered economically. You are talking about millions or even billions in damages. So it's only logical that the government and government machinery used defamatory law. But rest assure, it will backfired on the government. What comes goes around, comes around. Just watch. ;)

Anonymous said...

"This is landmark case for all you bloggers out there. Take responsibility for what you write."

Is this a threat to sue all the bloggers?

SK said...

I guess the issue is now a court case, so let the court continues with the due process.

I mean, the more that we commented on this case, it's going to be increased possibility that the plaintiff will create another story by citing sub-judice rules.

Meanwhile, I believe they'll be given a fair trial and I'm confident that, in the end of the day, Jeff & Rocky prevail.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Jeff Ooi's views at times, but this is not the point.

Rather than taking a legal case as individuals against individuals, the fact that the 4 individual plaintiffs are taking this up against Jeff and Rocky while shielded behind a wealthy corporation,NST, is worrying.
I personally view this as a bully's gesture where wealthy corporations that could afford to spare the moneys and resources are able to drag individuals to court on cases that could possibly run for a lengthy time frame. While, individuals could not afford that kind of luxury.
Legal, but unfair.

My contribution:
http://watch3r.blogspot.com/2007/01/nasty-picks-on-bloggy.html

Lame Basket.