IMPACT OF THE NEW MEDIA ON SOCIETY AND THEIR ROLE
Thank you Mr. Chairman Tuan Haji Bujang.
Your Royal Highness Princess Hajjah Hayatul Mutawakillah Bolkiah, Attorney General Yang Berhormat Datin Paduka Hajjah Hayati, my learned panelists, ladies and gentlemen.
I would to express my utmost sincere appreciation to the Attorney General Chambers for inviting and giving me an opportunity and room to share my thoughts and a little bit of the Malaysian experience in the ‘New Media’.
- It exist because of technological advancement in ICT, especially technology in broadband, engines and equipments itself, available widely at very affordable prices and rates.
- This is a new frontier and dimension of media as these advancements and massive availability revolutionise information, be it text, audio and now video. New media now being embraced by even children at unimaginable age, one and half decades ago
- The growth of the ‘New Media’ is exponential, allowed and gave a lot of room for User Generated Content (UGC).
- Everyone now seamlessly can say almost anything and everything, at the convenience of their circumstance anywhere equally in the globe and be ‘heard’, real time
- Suddenly, ‘Digital democracy’ is born.
This is the purest form of democracy where everyone could stand up and their voices and opinion could be heard. Most importantly, the intensity and outreach of these ‘voices’ are so huge
Role of the New Media
It has a social, political, cultural and economical role in society, particularly amongst the internet savvy cybernet citizens of the world
- Social – More and more people are able to reach out in a borderless and seamless world of exchanging information. Examples are social networking portals such as Facebook, Twitter, Friendster and the various chat rooms, which evolved from then the famous bulletin board, irc and applet driven. Even e mail groups have now diminished its popularity
New UGC phenomena such as Youtube is really taking the ‘New Media’ by whirlwind storm. Case in point is that since the last 7 months, Youtube daily users doubled from 1 billion. Malaysians, especially the younger generation (particularly generation Y) caught on with this new ‘info-tainment’ phenomena. A lot of materials, which include historical events and speeches not previously seen elsewhere are now made available.
- Political – ‘New Media’ facilitated more and more news portal which have political agenda to flourish and gaining more ‘market share’ in the attention for political news and opinion readership. The situation is more compounded when the Malaysian Government political leadership started to ‘dictate’ the More and more people exercise their democratic right via internet, text messaging and phone chats such as weblogs, sms and Blackberry messaging.
This is important as the new media impaired people’s thinking and how they form opinion, long before they go to ballot boxes.
Case in point – The Malaysian ‘Political Tsunami’ of the 12th General Elections on 8 March 2008 where the ruling party Barisan Nasional unprecedentedly lost 5 + 1 states and for the first time since 1955, BN no longer control the psychological 2/3rd majority in the Parliament.
It is the newest political propaganda phenomena that hit the Malaysian media scene where politicians turn to weblogs, to reach out. Opposition leaders such as Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang are very active in their blogging and tweeting.
Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is by far the most successful political blogger in Malaysia. In two years, his blog chedet.cc recorded 30 million visitors. This is by far more successful than all the mainstream media news portals combined.
- Cultural – More and more people are able to share their talents via the new media. In the Malaysian experience, a few young girls managed to be successful recording artistes from their render of their talents via Youtube. Case in point is Zee Avi and Yuna, which now have taken the entertainment business by storm
New Media also facilitated the growth of education. More and more content and methods are not available online and real time for a bigger target audience.
- E-commerce – New Media facilitated a lot business activities, on line. More information could be transmitted via the New Media, at much lower cost and thus giving higher value for money and margin. Not only for the sole purpose of A & P, New Media allows critiques to test the products and services offered, which eventually lends bigger credibility and acceptance.
New Media facilitated the lesser dependence on interactive for counter services, such as in consumer banking., which has now taken a major prominence. Government and authorities too embraced the New Media to improve services, expand efficiency and better dissemination of information. Electronic payment system has now been employed to collect revenues such as local authority charges.
- Corporate Social Responsibility – The New Media managed to provide a very effective tool to highlight the plight of some individuals.
Case in point – Recently Rocky managed to raise money from highlighting the plight of a traffic policeman who is bedridden for an accidentally in the line of duty at the juncture where the Malaysian Police Force has been negatively discredited for the shooting of a 15 year old teenager.
My personal case in point is Prof. Hashim Hussein Yaacob’ s experience, January 2009. Prof. Hashim, then a penniless former lecturer of developmental economics and a social activist for the hard core poor rural Malaysians needed a CABG surgey, which cost about RM 40,000.00. He had no money and no pension as he was summarily terminated by USM Vice Chancellor, then Musa Mohamed. My blog posting managed to attract the attention of his ex-Royal Military College ‘Old Putra’ mates, which include people in high places such as bank and airlines chairman. It also attracted the attention of IJN Foundation.
The Malaysian Experience in New Media
There are existing laws in Malaysia that govern New Media, such as Seditions Act, Penal Code and Official Secrets Act. All these laws are passed by the Parliament by representatives of the rakyat. The practicioners of new media must restraint themselves from ‘crossing’ these ‘legal lines’, otherwise they see themselves in hot soup.
- The most prominent example is Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin (RPK). For his scandalous and unsubstantiated claims of a particular VVIPs present in the execution of a foreign national by serving police officers (then being charged in a highly controversial murder case and awaiting trial), he was charged for criminal defamation under the Penal Code. Instead of facing his Public Prosecutor accuser in a criminal court, he chose to run away and now in hiding as fugitive, strongly believed in the UK.
RPK has since lost his credibility and integrity as a blogger and his onetime ultra popular Malaysia Today has lost much of its readership.
- For a private charge, the most prominent is premier Malaysian daily NSTP sued bloggers Ahirudin “Rocky’s Bru” Attan and Jeff Ooi. That civil action brought upon bloggers into a bi-partisan together and the National Alliance of Bloggers (All Blogs) were born and that attracted more attention, which snowballed into something unprecedented, with regards to the ‘New Media’. Suddenly, socio-political (SOPO) bloggers became very veracious in their attacks against the Leadership, who were very close to Rocky’s and Jeff’s accuser.
The role of bloggers in influencing how Malaysians, especially the internet savvy became more prominent. This facilitate the exponential growth of SOPO blogging and alternative media in Malaysia, which contributed to the 8 March 2008 ‘Political Tsunami’.
A twist of fate inadvertently arrives. Rocky is now the Chief Editor of a powerful Klang Valley afternoon daily and Jeff Ooi is now the DAP MP for Jelutong
Existing laws is adequate for the legal parameters of Malaysian New Media. However, the more advancement in technology and reliable and accurate information being presented, the more new media practitioners need to profess and advocate for:
- Self regulating – Practitioners of new media who cannot provide reliable, substantiated and accurate information would be discarded and avoided. Malaysia Today is a very good example.
- The integrity of and between practitioners of the new media themselves would self impose the restraints
- Educate and create awareness – Good practices within new media self impose ethics would promote healthy and progressive development of the New Media.
I end my short presentation with again a huge thank you. I welcome any question and opinion.