SOURCE: 3540 Jalan Sudin

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Please, Sir
Not The NST

I am scribbling something here. But before that, let me wish my Muslim brothers and sisters “Selamat Menyambut Awal Muharram”.

Back to my “scribbling”. Just my thoughts to put in a letter to the Prime Minister. The Deputy Prime Minister, maybe. Heck, the entire Cabinet. Not that anyone of them will care. I am just a blogger. One of thousands. What does anybody care, really?

But why (to) our PM or DPM? Or to the rest of their Cabinet colleagues?

Well, because it concerns the NST which (I don’t think this needs further explanation) is politically affiliated with the powers-that-be.

And I am very concerned about the NST and my many friends who are still at the NST.

I don’t know whether they themselves are concerned about this.

Damn, Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe there is no reason for concern.

Still, if I decide to send this letter, it will probably go something like this.

(Do remember that this is written in cyberspace. You don’t like the sound of it, turn me off. Read some other blog.)

Here goes nothing:

Dear Sir or dear everyone in the Malaysian Cabinet,

I would like to draw your attention to the defamation suit by the NST and four individuals against two bloggers – Ahirudin Attan and Jeff Ooi. I am sure you are aware of this.

My concern is not the suit taken by the individuals but by the NST.

I will not go into why the NST is suing these two bloggers although I am actually still trying to figure this one out. As far as the individuals (plaintiffs) are concerned, like any citizen of this country, they have the right to seek redress if they feel that their reputation has been hurt or injured by these two bloggers.

But for the NST to decide to be dragged into this, I think it is a big mistake.

The NST, already suffering poor circulation and sales, does not need this.

I fear that many people will boycott the NST. In fact, as I am scribbling this, a boycott has already started, of NST and its sister publications.

A boycott, and I see this will be a massive one, will really really hurt the NST.

You see, people are seeing NST’s action as a terrible thing. A newspaper acting against bloggers, against freedom of expression.

Worse, NST doing this at the behest of the goverment. Whether or not that is correct is irrelevant. This will be the perception.

People will be seeing it as a bullying tactic by the government through the NST.

I am not speaking on behalf of my friends and others at the NST. I cannot as I am no longer an employee.

I believe, though, that if they had their say, at least many of them, would have definitely spoken against it.

And I believe too, that many consumers will stop buying the NST, terminate their subscription and, well, boycott the paper because they hate what they see as the mighty goverment coming down hard against bloggers. Others perhaps, simply as a matter of principle.

People will be looking at the NST with contempt, with odium and with anger. The newspaper will be ridiculed.

NST cannot be dragged into this lawsuit. A newspaper suing bloggers for defamation? Think about it?

We are fighting for Press freedom and this newspaper is suing bloggers, one of whom is its former editor, for defamation.

It goes without saying that the world is watching as this is a precedent and a test case. A very interesting one.

And in the process, this will reflect so badly on the newspaper. And, of course, on the government because of the ties that bind.

I don’t have to be a clairvoyant to tell you that the implications are far-reaching.

You cannot let the newspaper suffer further because it will affect the livelihood of its employees. It will surely affect the morale of the staff including the journalists — if it has not already.

Oh. I remember well the repercussions of a boycott (coupled with the pain of the financial crisis) of the NST in the late 90s. The NST has not quite recovered.

Until today, I am so baffled by the NST’s decision to go on with the suit. What were the board members thinking?

Or were they?

The individuals can sue the two bloggers if they feel that they have been defamed.

(Although, if I were them, I would have set up my own blog and let Rocky and Jeff have a taste of their own medicine, or ask them to apologise or retract all those postings they deem offensive, untrue and baseless. If all this fails, I’d have a chat with them at Austin Chase -man to man.)

But not the NST. If you have it in your power to do something — then make the NST withdraw its suit.


There! That wasn’t so bad.