Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bloggers fight back against Rais over his son's graft allegations

KUALA LUMPUR: A new association called Bloggers For Malaysia was set up last night in response to a recent police report lodged by Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim after denying corruption allegations involving his son.

Protem president blogger Syed Akbar Ali (outsyedthebox) said the group was formed at the National Press Club Malaysia here after a meeting, held by several prominent bloggers, concluded there was no proper association to help protect and to represent bloggers in the country.

"Bloggers have no one to turn to. They just look at each others' faces without having anyone to defend them as there are no laws protecting them when they merely write or express their views on an issue they're interested in.

"We are sure to get a minimum of 500 bloggers to join and they can be rest assured they have us to defend them."

Akhramsyah M.U. Sanusi is the association's deputy president, Tony Yew (muststopthis) is the secretary, Mohamad Firdaus Abdullah is deputy secretary and Zakhir Mohamed (bigdogdotcom) the treasurer.

The committee members are Datuk Ahirudin Attan (RockyBru), Shamsul Akmar Musa Kamal, The Malay Mail chief operating officer Endie Shazlie Akbar and Eric Woon (iamamalaysian).

Commenting on Rais' police report, Syed Akbar said: "Bloggers and blogging are a worldwide phenomena which follow universal rules. Everyone blogs to share their two cents worth of opinion. As the Communications Minister, Rais should have engaged directly with the bloggers, not by blocking the new media."

Yew said: "If this was the manner all ministers and the Cabinet behave, many average citizens will be prosecuted. The question now is, how do they pick and choose out of the millions?

"Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been attacked but we do not see him taking any action. There are going to be a lot of people saying all kinds of things and the action by Rais is more like a stand-alone action, no one has spoken up for him. Bloggers do not blog without first identifying the source."

Akhramsyah said neither the government nor anyone could stop a person from using media used internationally to pass on or get information regarding an issue.

"There are many social networking sites such as Twitter and FaceBook which work faster. At least in blogs, people get the chance to engage should they have inquiries or just want to share their views, especially to bloggers who do not blog anonymously."

Following the report by Rais, Zakhir was questioned by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) yesterday from 2.30pm till 4pm. Zakhir said MCMC was very professional and courteous in conducting the interview.

Ahirudin was called in by the MCMC to give his statement last Wednesday from 11.30am till 1pm. The police report by Rais stemmed from blog posts by TnT and bigdogdotcom on Sept 27 claiming the telecommunication company of Rais’ son was one of nine companies which had benefited from a government grant to develop broadband connectivity in the country.

This was followed by Ahirudin’s blog post, Who gets Santa Rais’ RM1 billion handout?, on Oct 9. Rais lodged a report against Ahirudin, Zakhir and TnT on Oct 12.

In our report yesterday, TnT blogger — identified only as Tony — had told The Paper That Cares: "We at TnT were alerted to the issue by a source and we will do anything to protect this source. As bloggers, we have our way of verifying claims.

"The minister mentioned we made allegations, but that is not true. We certainly did not mention anybody doing anything. It was a teaser and not intended to harm anybody.

"The minister can go ahead and make a report against us, but we don't care."

Rais has yet to lodge a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on what he has described as baseless claims, despite threatening to do so earlier.

The issue of "false news" had made headlines recently, in particular the case of The Malay Mail's entertainment and lifestyle executive editor Irwan Abdul Rahman, who was charged in court over his blog post 'TNB To Sue WWF Over Earth Hour', penned under his blogger name, Hassan Skodeng. The charge has been met with ridicule and disdain by the blogging community as well as the legal fraternity, who have labelled it "frivolous". - Malay Mail

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