Did you hear that Rocky got sued? No, not “Yo, Adrienne!” Rocky. (He’s busy building hurtin’ bombs, I hear.) I mean Rocky Bru, the blog written by Ahirudin bin Attan, a Malaysian journalist.
On January 11th, a suit was filed against him by the New Straits Times Press (NSTP) and various high-ranking members of that Malaysian newspaper. Jeff Ooi, a Malaysian business consultant & blogger, also received a similar suit. Both bloggers are being sued for libel. The injunction requires them to remove specific blog postings that the NSTP feels are defamatory against the newspaper.
(Wonder if I’ll get sued for writing about this. Controversy is fun, isn’t it Ernie?)
The court hearing is set for this coming Tuesday, January 30th. Supporters for both sides of the argument have voiced their opinions. On the side of the NSTP are fellow Malaysian newspapers theSun, The Star, and Bernama. On the side of Ahirudin bin Attan and Jeff Ooi are fellow bloggers Susan Loone of Bloggers United and unnamed writers at Walk With Us (who set up this blog just to chronicle this case).
The issue boils down to this:
- The newspapers claim that bloggers are subject to the laws of defamation and sedition as anyone else.
- The bloggers claim they have a right to free speech and this suit is more about the abuse of political power than it is defamation.
I can hear the conspiracy theorists in the audience going nuts right now. (The Man is trying to keep us down! Down with The Man!)
Since this is happening in Malaysia, where British Common Law is practiced, I can’t comment intelligently about how their courts are going to resolve this.
But it certainly raises an eyebrow or two. Should blogs be subject to the same level of scrutiny as online newspapers? Same could go for podcasts & radio or vlogs & TV news. Or are blogs already better than online newspapers, because they’re not backed by politics and a paycheck? (Um, ignore those AdSense ads for a second here.) Susan Loone believes in the latter case:
Blogs have become the bearer of free speech, creative and investigative journalism, much to embarrassment of newspapers, who are now being perceived as nothing but state organs and propaganda machines. Many bloggers have continued to maintain their independence and their integrity, despite having to operate their blogs in their own free time, without pay and without fat bonuses.
For me, one of the joys of reading a blog is its sheer & naked honesty. They’re like online soapboxes. They give a voice to the common person, allowing one a platform equal in volume to any other online news source. That’s the web: the Great Equalizer.
It’s not a medium you can regulate easily either. If enough people believe in a message, shutting one soapbox down isn’t going to kill the message. Another soapbox will sprout up the next day. Like cockroaches.
Corporate marketers discovered this long ago. The ineffective marketers attack the blogs that badmouth their products. The effective marketers listen to those same blogs to improve their products. Hopefully, someday, other organizations will learn this too.