Why is Goliath going for David(s)? January 18, 2007Posted by elizabethwong in Human Rights, Malaysia, Note2Self, Politics.
Libel suits aren’t all that common in Malaysia. There are a handful of notables that come to mind, such as Vincent Tan vs. MGG Pillai; Vincent Tan vs. Prof. Jomo K. Sundram; and of course, one that would be interesting to watch in March i.e., Anwar Ibrahim vs. Mahathir Mohammad.
But we are nowhere close to the league of Singapore Inc. led by the Lees. The elder statesman and now his son, have carved a niche in the politics of the region, for their relentless assault against the opposition by way of civil suits. This strategy has been successful, not only because they were able to exclude credible opposition from the political process, it exacerbated a culture of silence and self-censorship amongst the oppositionists and dissidents.
Even less common, if not unprecedented here, are lawsuits filed by a newspaper against individuals.
But in this age where traditional media is hardly catching up with New Media, perhaps many in the former category may have been caught too often with their pants down by bloggers.
Which brings us to once again ask, ‘Why’, and ‘Why Jeff and Rocky’?
NST should already be used to the varying levels of disgust and anger from many quarters of Malaysian society.
During late 20th Century, there were even a nationwide campaign to boycott a select group of mainstream media by the opposition, in particular, NST, TV3 and Utusan Malaysia. There is even a suggested correlation then, between the decrease number of readership of NST and Utusan, and the leap in the copies sold by ‘alternative’ newspapers such as Harakah and Rocket, as well as the popularity Malaysiakini.com.
One would assume that loss of readers, which in return, harms the bottom-line, would be extremely detrimental. Yet none of the newspapers then attempted to sue, say, those who had heaped abuse and even organised a boycott campaign.
Today in 2007, with NST isn’t doing as well as it wants to, or should be, why have they decided to sue two bloggers? Wouldn’t it be better for its personal public relations (and hence, sales) to pull up their pants, rather than punish those who merely point out their faux pas in all their glory?
It is without question that Jeff and Rocky have risen above the ranks to become the most influential bloggers in the country. Though they have been quick to point out mistakes and catch ‘spins’ generated by NST and those from other mainstream media, their sharpest criticisms are reserved for none other than the leader of the country, Abdullah Badawi.
So is the libel suit in the service of NST and its readers, or is it in fact, in the service of others?
I, for one, am more fearful for the future of freedom of expression and the overarching effect of censorship and self-censorship in cyberspace, brought forth by NST.