18 July, 2008

New media challenges Malaysia's traditional press

Malaysian bloggers Ahirudin bin Attan and Ooi Chuan Aun (Jeff Ooi) speak at a conference in Indonesia. Ooi was recently elected to the Malaysian Parliament for Jelutong, Penang.


Several months back, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi admitted that his biggest mistake in losing a third of parliamentary seats to the opposition in the March 8 poll was to ignore the power of the Internet to mount an effective election campaign.

"We certainly lost the Internet war, the cyber-war," Abdullah said after the administration Barisan Nasional coalition suffered its worst-ever results that left five states and a third of parliamentary seats in opposition hands.

"It was a serious misjudgement. We made the biggest mistake in thinking that it was not important. We thought that the newspapers, the print media, the television was supposed to be important, but the young people were looking at SMS and blogs," he said.

Was the opposition's win in the March poll an acknowledgement that the new media is reshaping politics in Malaysia?

According to Arun Mahizhnan, deputy director of the Singapore Institute of Policy Studies, a confluence of factors led to the BN's unprecedented loss in the March polls, which was helped along by the intense cyber-campaigning of the opposition.

"It was more because of corruption, disaffection among the population in general particularly because of the way politics is played in Malaysia," Mahizhnan said during a media conference in Manila.

"Now without the Internet, would the majority coalition have lost so badly in the elections? The answer is no because although they would have lost some of the seats in parliament and some of the states, it would not have been as bad if the people were not so well-informed."

Mahizhnan said the main opposition party, the Democratic Action Party (DAP), used Web sites and blogs to give a different account of political goings-on in the runup to the March 8 polls, particularly during the 13-day campaign period.

He said these reports were then passed on through word of mouth and text messages to the middle and low-income groups in the rural Malay heartland who are used to getting their news from major dailies controlled by the ruling coalition.

He said the "Internet readiness" of the Malay, English and Mandarin languages also allowed the opposition to reach out to their audience and get more votes.

He said that while Singapore has several laws on proper Internet use, Malaysia does not have a similar law. "Of course, anything that is done in the Internet is not above the existing laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Official Secrets Act and Sedition Act," he said.

He said what is interesting in Malaysia is that mainstream media are almost entirely controlled by the majority while the alternative and new media are being used widely by the opposition.

continue reading here.

From Malaysiakini :

Good reasons to fear planting of DNA evidence

R Sivarasa | Jul 18, 08

The following is the full statement given at a press conference called by embattled opposition leader’s lawyer R Sivarasa.

Statements being made by senior government officials raise concerns as to the credible dispensation of the law, and suggest that a political conspiracy is very much at play in smearing the credibility and reputation of our client. They are making statements imputing that Anwar Ibrahim is not cooperating with the police.

We are referring, as an example, to the comments made by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar reported on the front page of the New Straits Times, page three of the Star and covered in other printed and electronic media. Syed Hamid should know better than to attempt to exert his influence on this matter.

As a cabinet member, Syed Hamid’s comments are tantamount to interfering in an ongoing investigation. He is quoted as saying, “What is he afraid of? He can have his own doctor present when giving the sample.”

Besides being an inappropriate interference in the investigation, these comments show a fundamental misunderstanding of the concerns we are raising regarding the introduction of DNA evidence.

In 1998-1999 trials, Anwar experienced the phenomenon of fabrication of DNA evidence. We had SAC Rodwan illegally removing DNA samples from forensic custody. In cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses it was exposed that DNA taken from blood samples was planted on the infamous mattress.

When confronted with this fact the prosecution amended its charge and persuaded the judge, Augustine Paul (now Federal Court judge), to expunge the entire DNA evidence from the record, preventing Anwar Ibrahim’s lawyers from responding.

The persons who were implicated in the fabrication of evidence during Anwar’s 1998-1999 trials, namely (attorney-general) Gani Patail, (police chief) Musa Hassan, and Rodwan (Mohd Yusof) are the same players who are involved in the current case. Today they are in much more powerful positions within the law enforcement apparatus.

Anwar has even more reason to believe of the probability that DNA evidence will be fabricated once again. This is reasonable because the complainant remains in police custody since June 28, 2008 and the police are also in possession of Anwar’s DNA from the earlier case. Our client’s concerns are therefore not resolved, as Syed Hamid believes, by his handing over a DNA sample through his own doctor or through an international forensic expert.

It would have to be independently verified first that all medical examinations and sample taking relating to the complainant were done professionally and without any interference from the police before Anwar will consider participating in any DNA analysis.

We also reiterate that there has yet to be any credible justification for resorting to DNA analyses when the police report made by the complainant remains shrouded in secrecy and no evidence substantiating the allegations are made available.

It is also false to imply that Anwar was not cooperating with the police. He agreed to meet with police at a prearranged date and time. He then gave a lengthy, five-hour statement, consented and voluntarily submitted to a strip search and measurements of his private parts, contrary to the unnamed sources cited in the New Straits Times today on page six.

We would also reiterate that he made that lengthy statement even though he could have exercised his rights within the law to have remained completely silent as the contents of the complainant’s police report were not made known to him.

Sivarasa Rasiah
Counsel to Anwar Ibrahim

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