Friday, 22 April 2011



THIS weekend, Mutalib M.D, the Chief Editor of Sabahkini, a news portal based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, will be in Kuala Lumpur but not to sort out the lawsuit filed against him recently which has made news in the mainstream media.

Mutalib will be here to meet some 300 bloggers for the first Malaysia-Asean Bloggers Forum. He will be in good company, quips Tony Yew, secretary of the Blog House Malaysia, the new NGO putting together the forum.

"There will be quite a number of us there who have been prosecuted or persecuted in one way or another for their blogging."

And that is not an exaggeration.

Mutalib is not the first to be sued by a minister, in this case Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, who recently sued another blogger and lodged police reports against several more.

The president of the Blog House, the author Syed Akbar Ali, was charged with sedition on the same day the ironic RPK was charged under the same Sedition Act, albeit in a separate court.

Tony Yew himself was hauled to the Industrial Court for contempt on his postings on a dispute between his wife and Malaysia Airlines. Audra was chief stewardess when the airline sacked her because of a third pregnancy.

Hassan Skodeng, the sobriquet for journalist Irwan Abdul Rahman, will be sharing the stage with Mutalib.

Skodeng was involved in a suit filed against him by the utility giant Tenaga Nasional. His crime? For blogging a satire on the Earth Hour last year.

Yours truly, too. The lawsuit against me by a newspaper company and four of its bosses and editors was a first in the world then, back in January 2007. The case is still ongoing.

But before you think the Blog House is a bad boys' club that is trying to put together the baddest in the region, let's put things in proper perspective.

The 1st Malaysia-Asean Bloggers Forum will be attended also by some 20 bloggers and micro-bloggers from Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

From Indonesia, we are going to have the organisers of the annual Pesta Blogger. The chairman of the bloggers' association in Manila will be representing the Philippines.

Tony Yew says he can't tell what these bloggers' political affiliations are, even.

"What we know is that the top bloggers from a couple of countries in Asean are not ready to surface, obviously for fear of political ramifications," he said.

As the blogger nicknamed A Voice said the other day: "We don't care about their (political) cause, we only care about their right to blog."

A Voice has never been sued, thanks to his Anonymity, but he's been on the Wanted list of many companies and the authorities for things he blogs about.

Blogging has come a long, long way for Malaysia as well as Asean.

And there is still ground to gain in the coming years. In fact, during the Sarawak election, the first State election in Malaysia since the keenly-fought general election in March 2008, the role and influence of blogs were quite prevalent.

That fact did not escape Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

After the ruling Barisan Nasional had secured the desired two-thirds of the seats contested, Najib mused about how tough it is to win elections these days due to the free online media.

I am sure the Opposition, which gained a few more seats but fell way short of their aim of denying Najib the two-thirds majority, could not agree more.

Back in 2008 and a couple of years running up to the 12th General Election that year, the Opposition enjoyed almost total control of blogosphere. Due to a government/BN policy then, none of the Cabinet ministers, politicians, journalists who were pro-BN had a blog.

The ruling coalition lost five States in the election and the two-thirds majority in parliament that year.

Today, with Najib's encouragement, nearly everyone in the government has a blog or a micro-blog.

The PM himself has agreed to attend the lunch on Sunday with the Asean and Malaysian bloggers.

Another blogger who will be attending the event is Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister. With a sitemeter approaching an uncharted 40 million unique visitors, the good doctor is by far one of the most widely-read bloggers in Asean, if not the world.

And yet, just a few years ago, even this statesman was demonised by the administration for speaking his critical mind.

So yes, Mutalib is in very good company, indeed.

The forum itself aims to come out with a set of resolutions on blogging which may be called the KL Consensus.

This will cover the crucial questions about blogging ethics, protection from prosecution, and about helping Asean governments achieve the goals that have been set for them when our forefathers created the regional association, especially in respect of mutual understanding and cooperation.

NOTE: ROCKYBRU @ AHIRUDIN ATTAN is group editorial advisor for The Malay Mail, Bernama TV and The Malaysian Reserve. He blogs at

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