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Jeff Ooi and Rocky’s Bru sued by NSTP for
defamation for their blogs - a grave development in the defence of the legal
rights of bloggers and citizen journalists in Malaysia to break the stifling
monopoly of mainstream media
(Parliament, Thursday) : The defamation proceedings launched by the New Straits Times Press (NSTP) against two bloggers, Jeff Ooi of Screenshots fame and Ahirudin Atan who runs Rocky’s Bru is a grave development in the defence of the legal rights of bloggers and citizen journalists in Malaysia to break the stifling monopoly of the mainstream media.
No responsible blogger will claim absolute freedom of speech and expression on the blogosphere, including the liberty to defame with impunity the character of others, and Jeff Ooi’s blog displays very prominently not only the warning that “Internet does not operate in a vacuum”, but another warning:
"Any comments posted on this blog that are obscene, blasphemous, racial or overtly threatening, including the use of partial words or phrases where the intent is clearly offensive, will be removed immediately by the host. Such comment could also render the person posting them liable to legal action or prosecution."
There must be space on the blogosphere however for free and fair comment, which is anathema in the mainstream media where important national issues and prominent personalities are concerned.
The NSTP defamation suits will have a chilling effect on freedom of bloggers and citizen journalists as litigation is so expensive that its costs will cripple and paralyse the ordinary individual blogger, making no contribution whatsoever to a healthy process to delineate and define the legal rights of bloggers and citizen journalists.
As these are the first two cases of Malaysian bloggers being sued for defamation, it will have far-reaching consequences for the healthy, mature and democratic growth for free speech and expression, not only on the Internet but in the country as a whole.
Without going into the merits or demerits of the defamation proceedings launched by NSTP, which will be sub judice, bloggers and all concerned about human rights should rally behind the two bloggers to ensure firstly, that there is a level playing field in the defamation proceedings particularly in terms of financial resources and capabilities, and secondly, that the legal rights of bloggers and citizen journalists are properly developed and entrenched in keeping with the imperatives of an information society and knowledge economy which Malaysia aspires to become.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman