UPDATED 18th May 2007
Would you rather...
...why not this...
What was initially a concept is finally going to happen tomorrow!
We're in the news also:
Malaysia's Bloggers Fight for Freedom Against Government Push for Regulation
Fabio Scarpello | Bio | 16 May 2007
World Politics Review Exclusive
DENPASAR, Indonesia -- Bloggers United Malaysia 2007, Malaysia's first national meeting on blogging, will be aimed at promoting blogging with a series of talks and workshops. However, when Malaysia's tech-savvy meet at Petaling Jaya's Lake View Club May 19, there is little doubt that the most pressing topic at hand will be how to stave off a government push to crack down on online expression.
Blogging has taken Malaysia by storm, rapidly becoming an alternative voice to the state-controlled media. Washington-based Freedom House ranked Malaysia at 150 out of 195 nations surveyed in its latest global survey of press freedom.
Bloggers' success has been the source of their problems, with an increasingly anxious government looking for ways to assert control over the "blogosphere." Malaysia is estimated to have about 10 million Internet users.
Although the Internet is technically under the authority of the Energy, Water and Communications Ministry, leading the government attack is Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin.
Zainuddin studied at the Institute of Journalism in Berlin as a young man, had a distinguished career at the government-linked Utusan Media Group and was president of Malaysia's National Union of Journalists between 1968 and 1970. The 68-year old Zainuddin accuses political blogs of writing lies and using wild language, and seems to symbolize his generation's struggle to grapple with the new medium.
Among those marshalling the bloggers' resistance is Ahirudin Attan, whose blog Rocky's Bru is among the most visited in the country.
A journalist, self-defined as "somewhere between veteran and retired," Ahirudin is also the president of The National Alliance of Bloggers of Malaysia, or "All-Blogs," as it is known, the country's first association of bloggers.
As its president explained, All-Blogs aims to protect the rights of bloggers and promote blogging in a responsible manner. It also plans to register with the government, appoint a committee and impose membership fees.
"We also want to make contact with the authorities and engage them in discussions to raise the level of awareness about the positive and negative impacts of blogging," Ahirudin said, underlining the non-confrontational nature of the alliance.
Although it has been brewing for a while, the battle over blogs and bloggers started in earnest on Jan. 4, when Ahirudin and Jeff Ooi, his deputy in the alliance and publisher of the Screenshots blog, were sued by the government-linked New Straits Times newspaper, which alleges that the two men made defamatory postings about the paper on their sites.
The case is ongoing and the two rebut the accusations.
On a more general level, the gloves came off in early March, when newspapers and TV picked up corruption allegations about Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharom that were posted on a blog.
The exposure prompted a security ministry circular telling editors of a dozen mainstream newspapers and five television stations that they must not "give any consideration whatsoever" to anti-government material posted online.
Since then, various government officials have accused bloggers of lying and called for regulations to limit their freedom.
Throughout the battle, Malaysia's Centre for Independent Journalism, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, among other groups, have sided with the bloggers, who lately have also found unexpected allies in the National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJ) and in former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Mohamad is not remembered as a defender of press freedom, but his daughter, Marina, is a blogger at RantingsbyMM.
NUJ has urged the government to recognize bloggers as a new medium of information.
Although Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi earned some brownie points when he rejected a proposal to order local bloggers to register with the government, Zainuddin has kept the pressure on and has now called for bloggers to be classified as either "professionals" or "non-professionals."
He argues that the classification is a "mechanism to prevent misuse of blogs" and that it will "facilitate the action to be taken against those found to have violated the country's laws." Ahirudin defined the proposal as another poorly disguised attempt to register bloggers.
"It is just as ludicrous if I were to call on politicians, like Zainuddin, to be categorized as professional politicians or non-professional politicians," he said.
In a meticulous explanation, lawyer and fellow blogger Nizam Bashir, the man behind the keyboard at the Poetic Justice blog, shredded Zainuddin's argument and warned that the proposal could lead to the circumvention of key principles of law, such as the presumption of innocence and the right to be heard.
"There are ample mechanisms already in place to regulate Internet content. These include the laws relating to the dissemination of obscene material, defamatory material, copyright material, seditious material and other content," he added.
As the argument rages on, roughly one hundred bloggers are set to make the trip to the western State of Selangor, where BUM will be held.
Among the confirmed speakers are bloggers like Ahirudin Attan, Jeff Ooi and Marina Mahathir, as well as experts such as Sonia Randhawa, executive director of Malaysia's Centre for Independent Journalism.
Fabio Scarpello is the Southeast Asia bureau chief for the Italian press agency AdnKronos International and a regular contributor to WPR.
Off to KL tomorrow and then to this place on Monday for a week.
So there'll be no updates from tomorrow till I'm back. Those eager for photos of the gathering can check out other blogs. Meanwhile, check out HowsyTV at my Youtube account.
Catch up with you all later!
UPDATED 12th May 2007
One more week to go to the big day! Missed the chance to pay by the 9th? Don't worry, the deadline has been extended to next Tuesday May 15, 2007. Places are still available (but quickly running out), so pay by 4.00pm!
UPDATED 27th April 2007:
We have confirmed attendance by Jeff Ooi, Marina Mahathir, Tony Pua, Tian Chua and R. Nadeswaran (of Citizen Nades fame) and Sonia Randhawa, Executive Director of the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia. Ahirudin Attan (Rockybru) will be a special speaker. We will update this list as soon as others confirm!
What to expect
Each panellist will share their thoughts based on their field of activity, expertise and experience.
Speakers are then not obligated to speak or to comment on the following statement :
That the media environment under the present Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration is more open and liberal compared to the previous administration under Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Special speaker Rocky will speak on the National Alliance of Bloggers.So, what are you waiting for? Have you registered yet? Head over to BUM2007's 'Payment' page for details.
All the banners are designed by the genius Mob1900.
All the info you need to know about the gathering can be found by visiting this official blog:
You can also help promote the event by blogging about this, pasting the banners (click on the links where the banners are hosted by photobucket) and link back to the www.bum2007.wordpress.com.
Hope to see you there! Embrace and engage!