Only session chaired by Malaysiakini went off track during Blogger Summit

Partisan politics pushes social media forum off track

by Aidila Razak
Sourced from http://malaysiakini.com/news/167178
Jun 17, 11 | 8:47am
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A panel discussion on political campaigning through social media lost its plot as Malaysian partisan politics raised temperatures at the World Bloggers and Social Media Summit yesterday.

Despite the presence of international panelists from the UK and the Philippines, the focus kept returning to Malaysian politics as some members of the audience trained their guns on moderator and Malaysiakini CEO Premesh Chandran.

Opening the floodgates was blogger Zainol Abideen, who blogs as Mahaguru58 and used his first opportunity to ask a question to complain about being removed from Malaysiakini’s Top Blogs section. He claimed that he was removed after he “started to become critical of Pakatan Rakyat”.

Cheered on by the audience, he also expressed unhappiness over Malaysiakini’s policy to allow “anonymous commentators who do not have the (guts) to show their names” to post comments considered “sensitive to people’s religions”.

The blogger, who claimed to represent the Muslim Bloggers Alliance, was also critical of Malaysiakini’s editorial stance which it said highlighted too much of negativity in Malaysia, thus scaring away investors.

Backlash on Twitter

While Zainol’s comments received cheers of support among the audience, the live tweet stream from the summit, which was projected onto the wide screen beside the stage, saw several members accusing the blogger of bigotry himself.

Some put the spotlight on a video posted on the Internet featuring the blogger saying that “Christians in Malaysia are starting to get out of hand” and suggesting that non-Muslims be tattooed on the chest or forehead to avoid body-snatching cases.

In a blog posting, Zainol later claimed that he was only joking about the tattooing of non-Muslims.

Chandran responded by explaining Malaysiakini’s editorial policy to speak for the underdogs and their concerns, including wastage in government expenditure, and that the portal bans users who continually post racist and bigoted comments after three warnings.

He also pointed out that Malaysiakini features blogs from the likes of former New Straits Times editor A Kadir Jasin and ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who cannot be said to be pro-Pakatan.

While the portal takes no responsibility over the content of the blogs it features, it does remove blogs when it receives complaints that the sites are defamatory and inflammatory in nature.

Good parents don’t grant total freedom

Malaysiakini was also put on the spot when asked if it will continue to be as critical of the government if Pakatan Rakyat takes over Putrajaya.

“You can ask our journalists who know that they get it from both sides, and we have been sued by Pakatan and BN politicians and we deal with both accordingly, and will continue to do so if Pakatan comes into power,” Chandran said.

While several other questions beyond partisan politics were raised, they were not about the original panel discussion of using social media for political campaigning, but focusing instead on the topic of the previous session on social media ethics.

In her comment, one blogger placed the granting of freedom of expression as a fundamental right in the context of “good parenting”.

“You will never give your child absolute freedom for his or her own good,” she said.

This was, however, refuted by Filipino panelist Tonyo Cruz, who said that there is no reason to question the belief that humans have the right to free expression.

“Don’t deny it to yourself and your children. If you take it away from yourself, you become less human,” said the member of Blogwatch, which is widely acclaimed to have significantly influenced the results of the presidential elections in the Philippines.

Mahaguru58 during the QnA with Malaysiakini CEO, in the background.

JAMESJG.COM said only the last session of the World Blogger and Social Media Summit chaired by Malaysiakini CEO, Premesh Chandran went a little off track yesterday. A few other bloggers who have negative comments against Malaysiakini couldn’t made it to the mic for the Q&A session. Not so free to expression eh MyEvents?

Overall the bloggers’ summit was a success with top world bloggers (minus owners of WordPress, blogspot, Peter Cashmore of Mashable) sharing their experience with the audience.

Sessions with AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman and Tune Talk’s Jason Lo in the panelist, were lively and great.

Nevertheless the summit was an eye opener to social media newbies. Politicians should block their diary for the coming social media summit this November.