Malaysians go to the polls on March 8. Much of the country’s mainstream media is seemingly content to publish propaganda masquerading as journalism.
All is not well in the country’s democracy:
A Malaysian government minister has accused bloggers, who have been writing avidly on upcoming elections, of being cowards and warned they are being monitored, a report said Friday. Youth and Sports Minister Azalina Othman said opposition parties were using blogs to get their message out because they believed the Home Affairs Ministry was busy monitoring reports in the mainstream media, the Star daily said.
“They think they can get away with it but it is not the case as they too are being monitored,” she reportedly said, adding that bloggers were cowards and a nuisance to the ruling party. Opposition parties have resorted to blogs, SMS messaging and YouTube in their campaign for the March 8 polls, to dodge a virtual blackout on mainstream media.
Major newspapers and television stations — many partly owned by parties in the ruling coalition — have given blanket coverage to the government and its achievements since the election was called. The opposition parties rate barely a mention, but thanks to the Internet they have begun campaigning feverishly in cyberspace with the aim of reaching young,
urban, educated voters.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranks Malaysia 124 out of 169 on its worldwide press freedom index, and says the main media are “often compelled to ignore or to play down the many events organised by the opposition”. The government has previously threatened that bloggers could be punished under draconian internal security laws which provide for detention without trial.
But in better news, one of Malaysia’s most successful bloggers, Jeff Ooi, is running. His blog tag says it is all: “Thinking allowed. Thinking aloud.”