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Blogging and Democratization in Malaysia – Forum and book launch

Last Friday there was the launch of the first properly researched book on blogging in Malaysia – the first from a social science point of view, and – as far as I know – the first dealing properly with blogging per se in Malaysia. “Blogging and Democratization in Malaysia: A New Civil Society in the Making” is written by Jun-E Tan and Prof. Zawawi Ibrahim of University Malaya; those of you who have been around the blogosphere long enough will probably remember Jun-E’s blog and research survey in 2006 – in a way I’m following in her footsteps, although my focus is different and I’m spending more time on it. I’m going to try to do a proper review of it at another time, but suffice to say that if you want to know more about blogging in Malaysia, and also about blogging and political activity in general, you cannot miss this book [Update 28/06/09: M/C Reviews have published my review of this book]. It also has a postscript written mostly by Zawawi (I think, based on what he said in the forum) about the 12th General Election and what role blogs played in those momentous events.

The forum last week was held in the KL and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

I got there a bit late, and it had already started. There were about thirty people there, and the organisers seemed a bit disappointed that more had not turned up; myself, I was a bit surprised that there were not more of the usual suspects at SoPo blogging events.

I missed the first couple of talks. Jun-E talked about the book, summarising it well and underlining the basic points of the book: most bloggers are not SoPo, but they capture a disproportionate amount of the readership and attention, and their key role in democratisation and civil society is in providing a channel to raise issues that would otherwise probably be ignored by the MSM. There’s more than that in the book of course, which includes a wealth of statistical data on bloggers and readers and detailed information on the formation of All-Blogs and other events surrounding that key episode of the Malaysian blogosphere. One thing that it made me realise is that I have to include readers of blogs in my survey too (i.e. those who do not have a blog, but read them regularly). Prof. Zawawi made some similar points, and also pointed out how he had asked Jun-E (he was her supervisor for the MA thesis) to gather information on the ‘narrative’ of the bloggers and the blogosphere, something which has been attended to in the body of the book, as well as in the interviews with key bloggers reproduced at the end of it.

Rocky then gave his talk, covering a few issues such as the relationship between the media and the blogs, and the interesting reaction of the Singapore government to the elections (he was invited with other blogs to speak to the Singaporean government about blogs and the elections). What interested me most, however, was how he said that there were “cracks appearing in the blogosphere”; ever since the elections there have been more blogs but some are “biased… blindly working for political masters” – i.e. like the MSM. Some “bloggers are openly promoting individuals… which is perfectly OK … [they are] allowed to be partisan”; but when do not want to listen to others, don’t agree to disagree, then blogs may lose credibility.

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Blogin Hood

A recent article in The Star noted the arrest of an "'Untouchable' crime kingpin" (pdf of the article here).

From the point of view of blogs, what was interesting about that article was one sentence:
"The suspect, who is also widely mentioned in a blog, has since been taken to an undisclosed location in the country to assist in investigations." (my emphasis)

One wonders what is the point of that statement.

Maybe mentioning the blog is a way of indirectly revealing the name of the person arrested? I assume the blog in question is Malaysia Today, which reproduces the article with some links to relevant previous posts (here), and if you read through them a number of names do get mentioned. However, to work out who exactly may have been arrested is impossible, given the number of names mentioned, and secondly, one would have to be somewhat familiar with the Malaysian blogosphere to guess that it was Malaysia Today which was being implied...

Not to dismiss the many efforts of Raja Petra Kamaruddin (RPK) to expose links between organised crime and senior police and/or government officials, I honestly don't think his blog is the direct cause of the arrest.

Some of his readers do though (comments from the above-linked post):

And how do you think they caught this untouchable?

And why are they cracking sydicate crimes?

All because RPK exposed them and they were made to look like fools. So to salvage whatever reputation they have as cops, they had to do this.

Johorians owe all this to RPK. Malaysia owes this to RPK. (Anon 05/08 10:49:51)

Who is running to police force? IGP pr RPK? Looks like RPK because he is the one who has been exposing the culprits. (Asamboi)
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