Malaysians hounded by vicious blogging too

Article from AsiaMedia:

MALAYSIA: Malaysians hounded by vicious blogging too

Police complaints lodged against readers who post seditious responses to blogs

The Straits Times
Tuesday, September 27, 2005

By Carolyn Hong

Blogger Ameer Zulkifli is used to heated debates on his blog, but one comment left by a reader two weeks ago shocked him with the ugliness of the racist diatribe.

Although reluctant, he felt compelled to lodge a police report against the reader for slandering Malays and cursing the government.

‘It could have created a bucketful of trouble for me,’ said Mr Ameer, a management consultant who blogs on current affairs and politics on his well-read site Brand Malaysia.

Under Malaysian law, a blogger may be liable if he condones inflammatory debate on his website.

Mr Ameer, 34, is not alone as another blogger, Mr Peter Tan, also lodged a police report against the same commentator for leaving a racist opinion on his site on Sept 17.

Police are investigating their reports, which could form the basis for the first Internet sedition case.

As online diaries, blogs are hugely popular in Malaysia but they are also becoming forums to air provocative opinions on topics regarded as too sensitive for public discussion.

Bloggers who focus on current issues often find their sites attracting strong opinions from readers with a tendency towards defamatory, seditious and inflammatory views.

‘Political bloggers tend to have this kind of problem. It is the dark side of the Internet,’ said one of Malaysia’s most widely read Web writers, Mr Jeff Ooi, who has had his own share of problems with vicious comments left on his blog.

He now watches his blog Screenshots closely to swiftly delete seditious opinions which often pour in when he discusses race-related topics.

Mr Ooi is ambivalent about lodging police reports against commentators but nevertheless felt that the move had sent out the message that the Internet was not a legal vacuum.

‘What is illegal offline is also illegal online,’ he said.

So far, the authorities have not taken action although they are not unaware of inflammatory Internet postings.

This is partly because they only act on complaints due to the sheer volume of material online, and very few complaints have been lodged.

Of the 131 complaints filed with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in the past year, only one dealt with sedition. That case was about a reader ‘Anwar’ who had posted a comment offensive to Muslims on Mr Ooi’s website. ‘Anwar’, a hospital lab technician, was eventually traced.

MCMC corporate communications head Adelina Iskandar said the matter was still with the prosecution department, but The Straits Times understands that a lack of technical evidence has forced the file to be shelved.

She said the authorities prefer to encourage self-regulation among Internet users.

The bloggers, too, prefer self-policing as responsible behaviour gives their writing greater weight and credibility.

‘If bloggers behave like dogs barking in the night, people will only throw shoes at them,’ said Mr Ameer.

Date Posted: 9/27/2005

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Minion to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. Columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. Principal Trainer at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.