Tun Abdullah ignored the new media to his own peril. The end of his reign can be considered as crowning glory for new media and another step in democratic advancement.
The new media players that brought about that change came from both side of the political divide. I was only glad to accidently be part of it and the few years of sacrifice came to fruitation. Only friends and the Mrs, appreciate how much was sacrificed.
All along, at the back of my mind, I thought we were only successful at psyching the establishment into believing the power of the new media or in particular, citizenship journalism to be more influential than it actually was. I couldn't quite quantify the impact we made till lunch near Kemunting, Perak (but not inside Kemunting) with a former Minister yesterday.
Here was a politician with somewhat of a reputation but speaking in a different language than one usually hear of UMNO politicians.
Off course, he wants to do all the talking but what he spoke of was what we had been saying all the while. He just realised a thing or two political reality on the ground. We allowed him to gloat as to not embarass him. The fun part was that he was speaking to me as though I am influential (which I am not).
So, we underestimated ourselves. If only those within the ruling party, UMNO did not overrate themselves. They were totally oblivious to the shaking on the grounds before the General Election.
Abdullah loyalist then was discarding the grouses expressed in the cyberworld. They were overly confident that rural votes will be their's for the taking with commodity prices of oil palm and rubber at record high. The grouses got transmitted to the population.
I guess the rude shock in March 2008 was the much needed smack in their head. The vocal jeer towards Khairy after the Pemuda result is another event to compound the message that the voice of the masses must not be ignored.
The irony or humour to all this is that the perilled Abdullah claimed openness as his administration's contribution to the nation. In actual fact, it regressed.
All newspaper, whereever in the world, be it mainstream or otherwise, have its own natural biasness by virtue of ownership, ideological or party inclination, editorial preference, readership, etc. Without denying that, the direct intervention on the mainstream media, mainstream spinning and untrue reporting by Abdullah's aides and trusted lieutenants was at it's worst.
Abdullah remained in-denial to the very last when he cited the reason for UMNO's deteriorating political position was due to leaders (i.e. himself) being constantly ridiculed (mempersendakan). He apologised for any wrongdoing but did not acknowledge his own incompetence.
Thus far, Najib's call for a more sincere press, acknowledgement of the New Media, his earlier gestures to release 13 ISA detainess and lifting of the ban by Syed Hamid on Suara Keadilan and Harakah, and cancellation of the IJN privatisation and Labu LCCT shows the extent his ears is on the ground.
Last night's message for media to report responsibly without fear and favour to hold government and public official responsible is most welcome.
But in the long run, confidence cannot be gained from just few initial gestures and a speech. There must be consistency on the part of Government. He must walk the talk and do more unexpected walk about all over the country.
On the part of bloggers, it is time to return to the serious agenda of nation building.
A year after March 8th, 2008, endless political sandiwara and the preooccupation eith party election by so-called UMNO bloggers, it is time for all bloggers, in particular the pioneering set of bloggers, to return back to more objective blogging.
Its time we return back to the reason we started as bloggers and revive the comradeship spirit that prevailed among us, irrespective of partisanship. There are those, due to their newly found partisanship, became combative and deviated from the spirit of bloggers comradeship.
All of us must return back to the spirit of "agree to disagree" than made blogs flourish and effective. Diverse Malaysia do not need to wide a divergence in viewpoints and it befalls on us to debate, discuss, and consult each other to narrow the gap in opinion.
Najib has offered an olive branch in his UMNO GA speech by his willingness to uphold the principle of not only "parti menguasai kerajaan" but the more profound "parti dan rakyat menguasai kerajaan."
For me, despite my partisan inclination, I will continue to be sincerely critical in areas and issues the current Government need feedback and sincerely support where it deserve the support. I hope my fellow bloggers from the other side, do the same.
Along the way, I like to see a less adversarial and more fun and enjoyable practise of democrasy and discourse.
A report on Najib's speech last night takenfrom Tunku's blog, below:
Tuesday, April 7, 2009---------------------------
Najib wants fair and responsible media
KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wants to encourage respectable and fair dialogue on the country’s future involving the whole nation that takes place with a vibrant, free and informed media.
He said that to truly build a democracy responsive to the people’s needs, the country needed a media - both old and new - that was empowered to responsibly report what they sew, without fear of consequences, and to hold government and public officials accountable for the results they produced.
“That is why as one of my first official acts, I lifted the ban on two media outlets which are extensions of the Opposition at the federal level,” he said in his speech on Policy, Politics and the New Media - A New Way Forward at the MPI Press Awards Night Monday night.
Najib also said that when too much of political discourse had descended into rumours and name-calling, people turned off the traditional media and looked to interact directly with each other and with leaders as they sought dialogue as a nation and not just monologues from politicians.
Acknowledging that the new media played an important role in the country’s political and civic future, he said he wanted to encourage a debate that took place across all media and all parts of the country.
He urged all Malaysians to establish a “new national discourse” on; the principles of transparency and accountability; service to all, not just a few; and respect and fairness in the public dialogue.
The Prime Minister also said he wanted a world-class, fact based reporting and a media that was fair and responsible in its reporting so that it could foster a constructive debate about the nation’s future.
“I believe we can move beyond those who offer the journalism of conspiracy theory and rumour,” he said.
However, he stressed that “responsible reporting” did not mean the media must take the Government’s side but it meant that it looked more skeptically and critically at some of the claims from all sides, especially rumours that made up too much of the political discourse.
“The media best serves the public interest when it goes beyond the superficial; when it asks the tough questions of the rumour mongers; when it does not lend credence to false innuendo and instead reports on facts and details - whether that is helpful to the Government or not,” he said.
Saying that personal attacks only undermined public confidence in the political process, Najib said he too had endured his fair share of these from some quarters of the media.
He pledged to be accountable for his decisions as Prime Minister, and said personal slurs and false accusations against national leaders were deeply damaging to the nation’s political discourse and international reputation.
He called on all parties who wanted to engage in “a new national conversation about the nation’s future” to respect other’s opinion, value discussion and discourse, recognise that opponents need not be enemies and that differences of opinion did not come from malicious motives but from a concern for Malaysia’s future.
“In such a period of trial for economics around the world, ideas need to be tested, discussed and argued because so much is at stake,” he said.
He added that respectful dialogue must take place all over the country - in homes and in restaurants, in kampung and cities, in workplaces and friends’ gatherings and in the traditional media and rapidly growing online media.
On transparency and accountability, Najib said the Government sought to be more responsive to the people by committing to getting results and he cited the setting up of a website to provide data on allocation of the two stimulus packages as a measure offering greater transparency.
On what he gathered during his Saturday walkabout in the city, he said the people were not in despair or anger over the country’s political process but they wanted to be assured the Government would work hard for the people and they wanted to hold the Government accountable if it failed.
Najib also said that for Malaysia to achieve its long-term ambitions there must not only be policy renewal but political and institutional renewal.
“This will be a core principle of my Government; governing that reflects the best values, abilities and strengths of our people, our leaders and our nation,” he said, adding that the institutions, parties and public servants must work for the public interest and “not narrow opportunism or political interests.”
A more critical report from AP that appeared on Singapore's Straits Times, below:
April 7th, 2009
Freer M'sian media: Najib
KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA' new prime minister urged the local media on Monday to criticise the government 'without fear,' but stopped short of saying if he would remove the annual licensing system that shackles publications.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who took office on Friday, said he wants to build a free press that is transparent, accountable and caters to the needs of all Malaysians regardless of their race.
Mr Najib's speech appeared to be an attempt to allay concerns that he would unleash a crackdown on the media. The fear was raised after the government banned two opposition newspapers just days before he took power. However, Mr Najib overturned the ban hours after taking the oath of office.
To 'build a democracy (that is) responsive to the needs of the people,' Malaysia needs a media that will 'report what they see, without fear of consequence,' Mr Najib said in a speech to the editors of local newspapers, radio stations and television stations.
The media 'should hold governments and public officials accountable for the results they achieve or do not achieve,' he said in the speech organised by the Malaysian Press Institute.
But Mr Najib's bold call for media outlets, which are mostly pro-government, to change is unlikely to achieve results as long as newspapers and other publications are forced to obtain an operating license each year.
The possibility that the license will be revoked keeps media outlets, especially those run by the opposition parties, in check. In the past, several newspapers have been shut down through this system.
In any case, most newspapers and all television stations are either owned by different parties in the ruling coalition or are indirectly owned by the government, which ensures they rarely go against those in power.
The only critical commentary available is in the online media and blogs, which tend to be heavily biased against the government. Some bloggers have been accused of reporting rumors and unsubstantiated allegations and of libeling government leaders.
Though bloggers don't need to obtain government permission to publish, they have been silenced in other ways. At least two bloggers, including popular commentator Raja Petra Kamaruddin, have been jailed briefly under a law that allows indefinite detention without trial. -- AP
The full speech found here.