Saturday, October 10, 2009

Who I am, and why I blog

Recently, a young Malaysian, who is researching citizen journalism and citizen blogging in Malaysia, emailed me with some questions to answer. After sending him/her my reply, I realised that what I wrote was a statement of why I blog, and of who I am as a blogger. I reproduce here his/her questions and my responses to them, as a statement of principles.

1. What prompted you to start blogging?
Social and political developments in Malaysia. March 8 2008 gave me a lot of hope that Malaysia was on the right track as far as our social and political growth was concerned. However, by end of 2008, cracks began to appear in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, and Umno/BN began to make succesful attacks on the idea of a two party system, and on multiracial and multireligious cooperation in Malaysia. These attacks were also made through their Main Strean Media (MSM) and bloggers, often with dodgy evidence and very flimsy reasoning. I felt that I could do something to counter them, and to share with others my own opinions on how Malaysia should go forward.
Why is there a need to self-publish?
Before the advent of blogging, there were few economical avenues for ordinary citizens to get their views heard: letters to the editor in the MSM, or join (or form) an association and issue press statements (again to the MSM). At the end of the day, the MSM and their owners decide if your views are worthy of publication, and if your views are consistent with their agenda. Blogging allows me to avoid that "censorship", and to share my views quickly.
2. How would you categorize or describe your blog? (Is it a watchblog, political blog, community blog?)
I blog about the importance of human rights, freedom and justice in a democracy, and I blog about whenever these are threatened. The people and institutions whose actions I write about are politicians, government, MSM and other bloggers. So I guess that my blog is a socio-political watchblog.
3. Who/What are you sources of information?
1) What I personally observe and record at the events I attend, 2) tip-offs from friends and sources, which I verify first, 3) news from other bloggers and MSM, 4) the internet
Do you read news and blog about it afterwards?
Yes, but only if it is pertaining to what I write about: human rights, freedom and justice in a democracy
4. What do you understand about ‘citizen journalism’?
As I understand it, Citizen Journalism is ordinary citizens gathering news and presenting it along with their own views, using technology to reach a wide audience. IMHO, It's a democratisation of news (and views) gathering and dissemination.
5. Do you think you are practicing citizen journalism? Would you consider yourself a citizen journalist?
Yes, and yes
6. What do you hope to achieve through blogging? (Eg: To create awareness among the public?
1) persuade Malaysians as to the importance of human rights, freedom and justice in a democracy, and of the principles and values that underly them, 2) Create awareness about the ways in which MSM and other bloggers spin, lie and abuse logic to create inter-racial tension and fear for political purposes, 3) Motivate Malaysians to work together for a better future for our country
7. How would you define Malaysia’s current mainstream media?
Our MSM is 100% owned by either political parties or corporate interests. Therefore, the news they report reflects their owners' need for political and pro-corporate propaganda, not Malaysian's need for news and views on human rights, freedom, justice, good governance, transparency and democracy.
Do you still believe in their news reporting?
No. I always look for how they may be spinning the news in their interest. So should everyone else.
8. Bloggers are sometimes misunderstood for spreading non-objective (bias) commentaries. What is your take on that?
There is no misunderstanding there. There are bloggers who are very non-objective. Indeed, it may be questioned if true objectivity is even achievable. The key is for 1) Malaysians to be able to read everything critically, and 2) for all media (MSM and bloggers) to be transparent about what their position or slant is, and what they are advocating. I myself subscribe to the principles of Advocacy Journalism.
9. Are there topics/news that you choose not to blog about?
No. I believe that all topics that are in the citizens' interest can (and should) be written about responsibly.
Do you practice self-censorship?
If you define self censorship as "the act of censoring or classifying one's own work (blog, book(s), film(s), or other means of expression), out of fear or deference to the sensibilities of others", then my answer is no. However, I do subscribe to the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics, and take pains to "Minimize Harm - Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect". I also choose to present my arguments in a way that (I believe) will be understood and accepted by my intended audience (Malaysians).
10. Some professional journalists do not approve citizen journalism because they believe that only trained journalists can write objectively and ethically. What do you think?
Looking at the way some professional journalists in Malaysia write, it's obvious that professional training is no assurance that a person will write objectively and ethically. IMHO, a citizen journalist can do just as well (if not better, because he/she has no editor to report to) as long as he/she is committed to ethical and objective writing and takes the trouble to learn and practice it.
p.s: Out of curiosity, is there a reason to remain anonymous? It would help me understand bloggers better.
I choose only to identify myself as Malaysian, because our current situation is one where people judge what one writes by one's religion, age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status etc. I would like my arguments to stand or fall on their own merits, not my identity. As an anonymous blogger, I feel more motivated to research and provide evidence for whatever I write, because being anonymous does not provide the automatic credibility (or incredibility) that some readers are content with.

I really hope that Malaysians will achieve a stage of maturity where they can read and evaluate arguments for what they are, and not be swayed by the name (and the religion, age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status) of who is saying it.
Malaysian Heart

1 comment:

  1. Hello Malaysian Heart,

    Thanks once again for your kind reply.

    p.s: I'm a 'she' :)

    Good day.


How to Paste Text into Comment Boxes

Google seems to have disabled pasting text (including ctrl-v) into blogger comments boxes in Firefox. The good news is that:
1. You can still copy paste using Internet Explorer (I successfully tried it with IE7)
2. With Firefox, you can still "Drag and Drop" text into the comment form. I have successfully dragged and dropped text from MS Word, websites (HTML) and from ScribeFire (plain text and HTML). Just do the following:

a) reduce the size of the window you want to take the text from, and place it near the comment box
b) Highlight the required text with cursor
c) Click on the highlighted text and drag it over to the comment box and drop it there.

Happy commenting!