Malaysian political bloggers have launched a support group aimed at protecting their interests after a government-controlled newspaper filed a defamation suit against two of them early this year.
The National Alliance of Bloggers aims to “protect bloggers” and “promote blogging”, said Ahirudin Attan, the new group’s president.
Ahirudin, who blogs on popular Rocky’s Bru site, said some of the bloggers have been repeatedly “demonised”.
The alliance was formed late on Thursday after close to 50 online commentators met in Kuala Lumpur and decided to set up a group aimed at protecting them from harassment.
The move comes as the government reportedly considers setting up a ‘blogger registry’ to control anonymous postings with what it calls “malicious content” – which are usually comments critical of policies deemed as a national security threat.
Ahirudin said they will try to get the government to see their point of view and why certain postings are put up.
“When certain quarters in government become hostile towards bloggers, I believe they mean to aim their hostility at a small group of bloggers or online writers whose views and takes of current affairs they fear,” he wrote on his blog.
Ahirudin and fellow blogger Jeff Ooi, his deputy in the alliance, are being sued by the New Straits Times newspaper, for alleged defamatory postings about the paper.
“If the politicians do not want to take the effort to learn about blogging and to understand bloggers, I believe the bloggers will have to take that initiative,” said Ahirudin.
Ahirudin said the alliance would next meet to discuss a constitution and ethical code, funding issues and the recruitment of paying members, including overseas-based Malaysian bloggers.
“Our top priority is to counter the negative image painted by the authorities depicting all bloggers as liars with anti-government sentiments,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Our group prefers self-regulation to government control, and the bloggers were unanimous on that.”
Ahirudin added that the bloggers at Thursday’s meeting insisted on fair representation within the group to reflect the country’s multi-ethnic society.
On Thursday, Najib Abdul Razak, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, said bloggers have made the “business of government more challenging”, inadvertently confirming the growing influence of political blogs.
“Some merely inform, others argue a point of view, and a few simply distort and sensationalise,” he said.
“There is now more competition for readership, viewership, eyeballs, revenues, profits and, yes, even infamy,” he added.