Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The NST Lawsuit

Much has been discussed throughout cyberspace lately about the suit by NST against 2 very prominent bloggers, Jeff Ooi of Screenshots and Rocky of Rocky’s Bru. For those who have been living under tempurung kelapa or otherwise not familiar with the going-ons in blogosphere, these 2 bloggers were recently slapped with a defamation lawsuit by the New Straits Times Press for some articles they posted on their respective blogs. They were served with the court papers sometime last week and are now in the process of preparing their defence.

Through a united front called Bloggers United, Jeff, Rocky and like-minded individuals are garnering support from the masses towards their current predicament. Following some generous offers of financial assistance from sympathetic readers and fellow bloggers, a fund is being set-up to help these 2 guys face the legal battle.

A visit to their blogs and many similar ones would reveal that these bloggers have quite an impressive following and are in my opinion, very influential people in their own right. Thus it is not surprising to see that many of their readers buy everything they say, hook, line and sinker.

I have to admit, I read their blogs religiously myself. But I’ve always been a bit of a sceptic about everything and so I don’t believe everything I read, even if it is as convincing as Jeff’s and Rocky’s postings.

I am all for freedom of speech. But I also believe that there is a limit to that. One cannot go around calling other people liars, crooks and scoundrels and commit character assassination all under the pretext of freedom of speech. The law does not protect those who choose to smear another person’s reputation without any justification.

Having said that, I must state that I do not know whether Jeff and Rocky were telling the whole truth all along or not. Their postings on the mismanagement of this country and various related topics were always hard-hitting and bold. Yet, on many occasions, I found that the information they supplied sounded more like hearsay than fact.

Nonetheless, it is obvious from the comments left by some readers at the blogs that whatever information posted on their sites are almost always taken as the absolute truth.

It is said that the NST is a mere vessel of the powers-that-be to silence the critics, in particular, the loud unflinching voice of dissent that are Jeff’s and Rocky’s. Whether or not this is true, I have no idea. In the popular assumption that it is accurate, the suit is interpreted to be an attempt at censorship and a tactical manouvre to remove undesired elements reminiscent of the Anwar Ibrahim’s Reformasi era.

Hence, when news about the legal action spread and was given a few dramatic spin by fellow bloggers, many excitable followers readily joined in the hoopla shouting anti-establishment slogans and freedom of speech rhetorics. Sadly, some do so blindly without even knowing what the fight is all about.

I may not agree with their views all the time but I’d like to think that Jeff and Rocky are responsible journalists, that what they have written on their blogs are the cold hard truth. While bloggers like me write about what’s on the radio and bitch about our bosses, Jeff and Rocky write about important stuff and things that really matter, fact or fiction notwithstanding.

That said, they are nevertheless accountable for whatever they have written thus far. Even in the States, the land of free speech and topless sun-bathing, a blogger was recently sued for revealing her illicit affairs with various powerful men at Capitol Hill. She lost the case, and she wasn’t even telling lies!

So, for Jeff and Rocky, I wish them well, I wish them luck.

As for the rest of us, the bloggerhood is suddenly abuzz with the realization that we are all accountable for everything we say in cyberspace. And it’s scary. For quite some time now, the internet is considered a haven for free speech. Say what you like, do what you like. You are untouchable.

Well, not anymore, so bloggers beware!


papadom_ullalla said...

in the beginning i felt sori 4 those guys but after reading more and more of their 'dramatic spin' as u call it i nak muntah pulak. berani cakap berani tannngung le woi!

your post is very unbiased as always. u cannot take side ka?

pugly said...

Goes to show that there is no such thing as complete freedom - except if you live on an island on your own, that is.

Typhoon Sue said...

Mr. Papadom - as a blogger, I want to believe in my fellow bloggers, but at the same time, i also know that NST and the named individuals have a right to do what they did. And at this point, I do not know who lied and who didn't. So, I'm still on the fence.

Pugly - exactly! There is a limit to this as provided by law.

Mr Hobo said...

for me it's like this, berani buat berani tanggung. Deal with it!

Typhoon Sue said...

Yes Mr. Hobo, that, I agree. But still, if what they are saying is true, that the suit is politically motivated, then, isn’t that a worrying trend?

That said, I must however state that do not know for a fact whether the suit is politically motivated, or if it is the bloggers who are politicizing the matter.

Mr Hobo said...

let the court decide ... I think the court now is quite independent compared to the zaman dictator M

Typhoon Sue said...

yes, let the court decide. I just hope that those overdramatic bloggers and commentators would just chill out for a minute

mawarmerah said...

the thing is this.
true -- any aggrieved party who feels that she or he has been defamed can sue another for damages.
so, the four NST executives have the right to sue Jeff and Rocky.
ANd Jeff and Rocky are not above the law.
That is non-negotiable. And I believe everyone accepts that.
The contentious point here is -- that NST as a newspaper that should defend the freedom of expression is suing these individuals.
THAT, my dear friend is wrong. It is a matter of principle.
That is what everyone is protesting. And when you drag the NST in the lawsuit,you are inviting far-reaching implications.
NST is not a tobacco company or a biscuit company. It is a newspaper, for God's sake!
So, it is not about Jeff or Rocky. It is about a giant media corporation that is closely-linked with the powers-that-be, that is at issue here.
Today, Jeff or Rocky. Tomorrow, it could you or I.
It does not matter what we write. We should be free to do that. And of course, be damned. Jeff and Rocky had their names there. I have been following thir postings. They were expressing their opinions. They also posted newsbreakers. Whether or not they had credibility.Well see for yourself -- the PM responded to the yacht story carried by Hurriyet (the mainstream media mever carried it.), Rocky posted the "deepavali" story,(which the mainstream media followed up) and the executive jet story? many more.
you do not have to believe what they say. this is blogosphere. just like i do not have to believe what you write.
there are other channels to rebut or criticise their writings.
What the NST is doing is a sign of a very bleak future.
that's it for now.


the sentinel said...

mr hobo,

we all would like to believe that. funny thing -- why do lawyers make remarks about judges, then? so,let's not have illusions.
i would, in all honesty, to believe that the executive in this country has no influence whatsoever, in the judiciary and the judicial process.

Typhoon Sue said...

The contentious point here is -- that NST as a newspaper that should defend the freedom of expression is suing these individuals.
THAT, my dear friend is wrong. It is a matter of principle.

But NST's principle is THEIR prerogative, no? Not yours, Not mine, only THEIRS.

NST is not a tobacco company or a biscuit company. It is a newspaper, for God's sake!
they are also a company just like any other company in the country, linked or unlinked.

So, it is not about Jeff or Rocky. It is about a giant media corporation that is closely-linked with the powers-that-be, that is at issue here.
Because it is closely linked to the powers-that-be, it cannot sue anyone, izzit??

What the NST is doing is a sign of a very bleak future.
This is what I call being dramatic.
Chill out man.

Typhoon Sue said...

note: the sentinel and mawarmerah is one and the same

I'm just curious as to why blog commentators feel the need to mask themselves when they are saying something in opposition of other people's opinion.

So like baling batu sembunyi tangan, tak gitu?

the sentinel said...

dear typhoon sue,

i am certainly not thrilled by your conclusion that mawarmerah and i "is one and the same person".

he/she may work in the same building as i do or live in the same neighbourhood or sound like me, but it's not fair to even make that conclusion, especially as you were making it quite clear you were assuming dishonesty on my part (and hers/his).

as for "masking" myself, i suppose people have their reasons.

as for myself, it is for obvious reasons. in the light of what's happening to rocky and jeff ooi, there is very little incentive to reveal myself if i were to voice views against the establishment or government.

unless i blog on safe subjects.

thank you and all the best.

Typhoon Sue said...

the sentinel,

1. it's not my job to thrill you to bits.

2. this is my blog, i'll say whatever i want, especially since my record shows that only one reader was on my site during the time of posting of the comments by both mawarmerah and you. It's not just an assumption.

3. both you and mawarmerah sound exactly the same.

Sophie said...

the defamation lawsuit definitely has had a chilling effect on bloggers, especially in Malaysia.

my two cents worth: http://sophiesworld-sophiesworld.blogspot.com/2007/02/questions-in-new-world-order.html