IN a democracy system, the rights to criticize government without interference regarded as fundamental principal of freedom of speech and this is jurisdictions use by bloggers to fully utilize the new media due to less censorship.
Political Blogs are unique in the sense that they do not fall under a collective umbrella of some media tycoons or political influence such as Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch or our country’s political pressures. Each blog represents the voice of an individual with no queen in the hive acting as central command. The existence of Internet has turned it into a political force by itself.
June Tan and Zawawi Ibrahim (2008) assert that, Blogs have two potential roles to play in democratization.The first is to facilitate the civil liberties of society as a whole and second is to help in framing the discourse and setting the agenda for public policy-making. Those marginalized by the mainstream media have also taken to blogging as it offers them an unprecedented avenue to be heard.
Raja Petra Kamaruddin, administrator of widely-read web portal Malaysia-Today, state that his website thrived on information disclosed by informants within the ruling party because of political rivalry and infighting. Meanwhile Jeff Ooi confirms that he gets “insider” scoops from people within media organizations that they “cannot publish”.
According to University Malaya Media Department lecturer, Dr Abu Hassan Hasbullah, his research shows that 70% of the recent general election results were influence by information in political blogs.
Prominent socio-political bloggers, Ahiruddin Attan claimed the blogs ability to influence the people’s minds depends on the bloggers credibility.
In 1998, when Internet penetration is still low in Malaysia, there were only 280,000 Internet subscribers against 8 million registered voters.Today ten years later, there are almost 16 million Internet subscribers against 12 million registered voters.
Recent official statistics of Internet World Stats, show that Malaysia currently has 15,868,000 Internet subscribes. Over the last ten years, the number of registered voters increased only 50%, meanwhile in that same period, the number of Internet subscribers increased 328.9%. Today, the Internet penetration reaches 62.8% of the Malaysian population. Thus, Malaysia has more Internet subscribers than it has voters.
That figures indicates that there is a need to have a critical thinking to deal with the modern media. Koh Lay Chin, writing for NST Online attests that, the Internet movement is now a player in Malaysian politics, and those who refuse to believe that may have to rethink their views. Political party who abandon the critical role of political blogs will suffer a heavy defeat in the upcoming general elections as proven in the 8 Mac 2008 Malaysia General Election.
Heralded as ‘’Political Tsunami’’, the four BN-controlled states of Penang, Kedah, Perak, Selangor and 10 of 11 Parliament constituencies in Kuala Lumpur fell into the hands of Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance), consisting alliance forged between the opposition parties: PKR, DAP and PAS. Knowing that the mainstream media will not give them too much space, the opposition coalitions fully utilize the Internet to reach their audience.
Former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi himself, commenting on the BN loss in the online war in the recent general election said, “We didn’t think it was important. It was a serious misjudgment…We thought that the newspapers, the print media, the television were important but young people were looking at test messages and blogs’’, and concluded by admitting that the influence of new media “was painful’’.
Shabery Cheek, former Information Minister recognizes the rise of blogs as a global social trend and that “people will still seek alternative news” regardless of how free the mainstream media is from government control. He admits that bloggers play a role by being “the most direct and simple channel for people to voice their opinion’’.