Of Freedom of Expression and Apathy


I read two diverging yet equally compelling opinions from academic Azmi Sharom and Jeffrey on the topic of the lawsuits by media group NSTP against prolific bloggers Jeff Ooi and Ahiruddin Atan of Rocky Bru.

 Since last week when the news broke, there has been a lot of developments in Blogosphere that is of interest to many of us. Some passionate bloggers and their commenters have railed against what is termed as bullying tactics of NSTP, which could have made use of different avenues to refute or explain the two bloggers’ postings deemed damaging to them, instead of suing them.

I agree. Democracy is a fragile institution and it is only as successful as its practitioners. In this country, thanks to the technology, the only bastion of democracy I see is the Internet. I could be dragged into a long, drawn out arguments on the finer points of democracy, but that is not really the point I’m trying to make.

There is an entire generation of Malaysians who were born after bloody May 13, 1969 who are unaware, apathetic and simply blind to the changes happening around us. Freedom of Expression has always been available at a premium in Malaysia especially in the later half of our 50 years of Independence.

The education system, OSA, ISA, Sedition Act and, Printing Presses and Publications Act has steadily tightened the straitjacket on civil liberties in Malaysia. We don’t care. It takes explosive events to lull us out of our collective reverie. The Anwar Ibrahim episode of 1998 is one such example. Whatever position people took, there was some awareness, although 9 years down the line, we fell back into cosy somnolence.

The rise of blogs as a source of information, IMHO, has a lot to the eroding trust in our local newspapers. For some time now, a lot people are waking up to blogs as an information medium. A lot of people read it. The business sector was quicker to wake up and respond to it as it has the potential to hurt image and perception. Jeff Ooi’s Maxis Chocolate Incident and Malaysia Airlines complaints are cases in point. That was more than two years ago.

That bloggers rallied behind Rocky and Jeff is the finest thing that came out of this whole lawsuit business, I think. Offers of support poured in, many pledging money, leading to this.

My once-upon-a-time boss said this in his blog about the issue…

While the news of a proposed fund for bloggers may not necessarily embolden all bloggers, guys like Rocky and Jeff Ooi would feel that they are certainly not alone in their court battle, if it comes to that. As in traditional media, journalists, commentators and writers are forever testing the limits of freedom of expression, a daily task that is often fraught with risks and potential danger.

He also said this…

I’m quite sure the entire blogging community worldwide will follow proceedings closely. And in the process, the country’s administration of cyber laws will be deeply scrutinised and be put to a test like never before. More than just Rocky’s and Jeff Ooi’s freedom is at stake here!

 Damn right!! It is the collective voice of the public that is under threat here. So wake up people!

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