For me, the subject first cropped up almost 40 years ago when as a young officer aboard a ship in a home port, I was visited by a relative* who was then managing the Utusan Melayu. At dinner, when asked by a fellow officer (an Englishman) about how free and independent were the newspapers in Malaysia then, he merely shrugged and said, "As free as we can be, bearing in mind that we need licenses to publish and these have to be renewed periodically".
Fast forward 40 years, the situation have changed but the requirement for licensing remains although several of the national mainstream newspapers have for the most part evolved into ruling party media organs. With news being skewed to reflect only government positions, these rags have begun to lose credibility and even readership. It is no wonder that online news portals and weblogs have become very popular, especially amongst the younger set.
Perhaps it was with this in mind that the government now no longer regards online news portals and weblogs as alternative media but as part of the mainstream and have proposed the set up of a Malaysian Media Council, to include bloggers' representatives. To my mind, this would probably end up as another regulatory body if laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Official Secrets Act are not amended first.
At a meeting of 40 editors and media activists and chaired by the Home Ministry's Chief Secretary to discuss the proposal yesterday, Ahirudin Attan a.k.a Rocky, who is the pro tem president of the National Alliance of Bloggers (All-Blogs), was of the view that blogs and on-line portals SHOULD NOT be included in the proposal to set up the Media Council. He said that it was very ambitious on the part of the sponsors of the idea to think that a single council would be able to deal with old and new media. He suggested the formation of an independent Press Council instead. (Read his take on the meeting, here)
I truly and wholeheartedly agree. Just leave us bloggers be.
* Dato Idris Hj. Ibrahim, later an MP and founder of Pemadam.