AAH! What a week for bloggers! RPK of Malaysia Today was summoned to a police station to be quizzed; a seminar on blogging was held at UKM with some well-known personalities giving their views; Ahirudin 'Rockybru' Attan was invited to give his views on blogging at a conference in Bintan; and many politicians jumped on the bandwagon giving their two-sen worth on the issue at hand.
There's no shortage of accusations and counter-accusations too! We also read statements by international bodies expressing their concern for the blogging community in Malaysia and the manner in which the Government views blogs and bloggers. Hah! It's almost come to the stage where a person can be considered to be unfashionable for not knowing or visiting a blog.
Not cool at all, many say!
About three weeks ago I was invited to speak on blogging at a seminar which was attended by some 40 bloggers and IT promoters. This is small, considering the number of bloggers and blogs that have mushroomed in the country in recent months. But to me, the number is not important.
What is noteworthy is that the political party (not Umno or PKR) which organised the seminar had acknowledged bloggers and the influence this group of people may have on society (read voters). Blog followers are generally urban-based for the moment, because the digital divide in this country is still wide and not adequately addressed.
By engaging the bloggers, the organisers had actually begun the process of two-way communication, done in a relaxed environment and with the clear objective of seeking an understanding of what is blogging, what it can do, and where it's heading. Agreed that there weren't many established and controversial bloggers in attendance. But mind you, this is just the beginning.
Blogs provide a platform for intellectual articulation and debate. There are also blogs which provide updates on people and events; some blogs may just be the owner's personal diary - penning stories about their work, their hobbies and other pursuits. Some blogs are hardly known and visited because they are just the owner's personal space in blogosphere.
The Muhammad Muhd Taib and RPK duel has given blogging considerable attention and publicity. RPK more than Muhammad would certainly welcome the coverage given by the national media! Not all blogs get that kind of national attention and free promotion courtesy of the Umno information chief.
A number of working journalists too have blogs of their own, suggesting that they find blogging a good platform for intellectual interaction and engagement. They aren't able to do that in their own media organisations, you may ask. Well, they blog for reasons of their own, and this could also mean that blogging provides them with some degree of satisfaction.
I believe that lodging police reports and making threats are not the most effective and appropriate way to engage bloggers. There's a limit to what brawn can do when addressing situations involving intellectual discourse. A duel to the death won't help matters too, I think.
A meeting of the minds is needed, lest the antagonism fuel unwanted attention at a time when we are being led to believe there is greater freedom of expression than ever before. Blogging is here to stay. The faster the relevant authorities recognises that, the better.