Saturday, January 20, 2007

Freedom of Spin

Wow ! What a week it has been, hasn't it ? By now we all know about the lawsuits filed by NST and a few individuals against Ahiruddin Attan and Jeff Ooi. And boy, has the response been overwhelmingly single minded.

Bloggers and the defenders of free speech have come out with a war cry and about the "chilling effects of free speech". Rallying behind the defendants, they're now in the midst of arranging for a legal fund to be administrated by Marina Mahathir, among others. We think Marina Mahathir is a good choice for this. She's proven her integrity in the past, though sometimes Mydeen doesn't agree with her opinions.

All this while though, and to their credit, the plaintiffs have maintained a rather elegant silence over the whole thing. Looks like they're going to do their talking in the courts, to be presided over by our civil justice system.

We at SiPM have reiterated that we think this isn't about freedom of speech or about clamping down on bloggers, influential or otherwise. This is about rights, and what happens when two inalienable rights collide. Oliver Wendell Holmes put it very succinctly when he said, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins".

As MonsterBlog has pointed out, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights defends freedom of speech but this is mitigated by the notion that it does not impede the rights nor reputation of others. The fine act of balancing where another man's nose begins will be left to the courts, as in this case they decide on whether it was fair comment or if it was defamatory.

Which brings us to another fallacy being perpetuated. The blog world is perpetuating the spin that this lawsuit is a result of Jeff Ooi and Rocky Bru accusing Brendan Pereira and the NST as plagiarists and that the plaintiffs are filing suit because it is true and that their egos are hurt. Mydeen and his SiPM colleagues think this is quite premature, and frankly, quite presumptious.

Firstly, no one really knows what the two are being sued about, and which offending articles are being referred to. We don't know for sure if this is about plagiarism. But the spin goes on. The spin is prolific and perpetuated in a number of blogs, Kickdefella being one of them. It needs to be remembered that until more details about the lawsuits surface, this conjenctured spin will take precedence. We at SiPM see it for what it is, spin to sway public opinion before the lawsuits hit open court.

The second thing which bothers Mydeen is the assumption that what the bloggers wrote has to be true, and therefore the plaintiffs are running scared and retaliating by suing to assuage their hurt egos. The bloggers need to substantiate their assertions, whatever it is about, in courts first, before we can assume that what they said is true. This isn't about tarnishing either Jeff Ooi's or Ahirudin Attan's character or integrity. This is about following a process long enshrined in our consitution and our civil justice system. The onus is always on the accuser to substantiate his accusations, and in this case the courts will insist on that.

Mydeen has always held that many of the defenders of free speech do not really know what it is, nor would they be able to handle it if it were given to them on a silver platter. The very same bloggers, commenters and armchair analysts who're whoring their opinions all seem to seek to deprive the plaintiffs their rights to sue the bloggers. It does seem like the rights of the bloggers are greater than the rights of others to seek redress. It does seem like bloggers expect themselves to be beyond reproach.

This notion will hold more water if bloggers had been responsible. But there have been many cases in the past where bloggers have acted irresponsibly and have made wild allegations. With this as a background, this lawsuit is perhaps something which the blogging community needs. It'll definitely set a precedent of sort, being the first of its kind in Malaysia. It's not a first in the world, as the spin would like you to believe, as Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report was sued before.

Is this a chilling effect on freedom of speech ? Mydeen and SiPM do not think so. This will further cement the notions of free speech and the rights of bloggers, instead of taking anything away from them. Bloggers have always asked to be put on the same pedestal as mainstream media and publications. If mainstream media and publications can be sued for what they publish, then so can bloggers. If anything, they have now achieved what they have long asked for. Equal rights.

Speaking of equal rights though, it does also seem that many bloggers do not practice what they preach about freedom of speech. Looks like they can only handle it when it supports their worldview, and not dissenting views. SiPM's members have had their comments on some blogs censored before. The trend continues today on Kickdefella's blog. While we still find his movie poster parodies really funny and worthy of being promoted, we however think that Kickdefella went overboard and hypocritical when he has banned all comments from Mat Merah, Dek Mat and Mydeen as long as the comments contain a URL link to sipm.blogspot.com. Looks like freedom of speech is fine only as long as it coincides with the speech of the freedom fighters.

While we're on the subject, we think that while the campaign to garner a coalition of the willing is commendable, what's with this Bloggers United moniker ? It sounds like a football team doesn't it ? Are they going to be playing in the Malaysian Super League or the English Premier League ? Will they be playing against the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, who incidentally all will face crucial title games this weekend. Or are they setting themselves up for a grudge match with those MyTeam fellas ?

Mydeen would definitely pay for tickets to that match, but the teams must promise to play clean, no hitting below the belt or any Paul Gascoigne type fouls. SiPM will be watching as the fourth and fifth officials of the match.

Whichever way you want to walk, either walking with the bloggers or walking with NST, you need to be consistent in your walk. With that, we'll let some aging rockers tell you how to walk.

8 comments:

helen said...

Yes, totally agree with you.

Personally, I have no objection to fellow bloggers who wish to contribute financially or otherwise to the legal fund thing, but until we know for certain what are the charges brought up against the bloggers, I agree we should adopt a little patience in regards to our assumptions. :-)

Mydeen Aboo Backer said...

Thank you, helen.

We at SiPM are all for freedoms and the rights, and we think we should allow the system to sort things like these out. The overwhelming spin around this whole issue is preposterous, and what's admirable to date is the elegant silence the plaintiffs have maintained.

johnleemk said...

I think it's ridiculous that some people are ignoring the fact that defamation laws serve a real and justified purpose. We should not be fighting for a freedom of speech that includes the freedom to defame others' reputations using unfounded facts.

Azer Mantessa said...

ur entry is more mature ... i like it ... tq

__earth said...

signed.

edalinka said...

Am beginning to dig the wit and sensibilities of your party more and more!

Mat Merah said...

Thank you, johnleemk, azer, hafiz and edalinka.

We hope for common sense but as you very well know, it is uncommon.

Anonymous said...

Latest rumor! The week before 2008 General Election, Bloggers United get detailed and went missing! ISA got all the reason like capturing gangster or cult followers to take down Jeff Ooi and others in a group promoting false information and political defamation. Too late, the tracing has already begun! United we see each other in jail!