Malaysian blogger Raja Petra agrees to be out on bail

Yesterday, I wrote about Malaysian blogger, Raja Petra being jailed for sedition. Anyway, to follow-up on that post, he’s now agreed to post bail.

And it’s none other than his 54 year-old wife, Marina Lee Abdullah’s words, “I want you back” that helped Raja Petra change his mind. No doubt, his wife is concerned about his welfare and deteriorating health in jail especially when he’s embarked on a hunger strike.

Well, looks like there won’t be a need for any more candle light vigils for him.



Malaysian Blogger Raja Petra is jailed!

Key Malaysian blogger, Raja Petra has been charged for sedition after he wrote an article that suggested that key Malaysian politician, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, is linked to the killing of a Mongolian woman.  The Malaysian blogger has been jailed and has gone on a hunger strike!

According to the article in Today, on April 2001, “Raja Petra and about 10 other opposition activists were rounded up under the Internal Security Act — which allows for detention without trial — for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. He was detained for 52 days, during which he refused food and water”.

Raja Petra is the editor of the Malaysia Today news portal and he was jailed on Tuesday after being charged with sedition over his online article, and his portal is a popular news blog that promotes discussion about Malaysia’s political and social scenes.

He is the first blogger to be charged under the Sedition Act and he has refused to post bail set at RM5,000 ($2,150), choosing to go behind bars till his trial begins on Oct 6, and using his jail time to make a statement. 

This case will be closely watched, especially at a time when society is starting to come to grips with the use of the law on the blogospehere.

Thriving Blogosphere in China

The blogosphere is thriving! This is especially so with the number of China’s Internet users hitting new highs. Even in the rurul areas of China,  the numbers surged 127.7% in 2007.

In fact, China has become the fastest-growing Internet population with 221 million online users. This makes it a tie with the number of users in the US. The number has exploded despite the Chinese government’s efforts to curb access to materials they deem as offensive or pornographic. Remember the cute policeman and policewoman policing the Internet and screens of the Chinese online users? Perhaps, it is because of the imposed curbs and censorship that has caused the surge in online use.

This growing number of Internet users is seen as a cause of concern for Chinese officials who feel that users would turn to the Internet for their subversive activities and discussions.

Or perhaps they need not worry so much as many Chinese have turned to the Internet to rally support amongst the Chinese against the pro-Tibet acitivists during the Olympic Torch Relay through the various countries.

Perhaps, the Chinese government would like to take a leaf from the Malaysian government in its about turn in moving from ignoring and criticising the Internet to embracing it. It’s now calling all its members to write blogs and use new media to connect with the electorate and general public. It’s learnt its mistake of not using new media, thus leaving a void for other online discussions to take place without it.

In Singapore, blogs, websites and other new media abound to supplement and complement the news in mainstream media and serve as alternative forms of engagement

I do believe that using new media would in a way help to engage with younger voters and members of the public, but new media in itself would not do much – you would still need good, quality content, and online conversations that would be open to all, and of course, an open mind.

Costly mistake by Malaysian PM for ignoring the Internet and bloggers

Malaysian PM Abdullah Badawi admitted that he underestimated the power of the Internet in garnering political support, in the follow-up to the biggest loss of political power for the ruling party of Malaysia. He felt that this was a costly mistake and that his party had lost the Internet war.

Due to being ignored by mainstream media, the opposition parties took their campaigning online through blogs and websites.

The recent elections in Malaysia show how the Internet could be galvanised as a political tool. “The Internet definitely played a role in getting young people to vote,” said 25-year-old Michelle Gunaselan, a founding member of online electoral education group VotED. Many young people are now generally more hopeful about their political future, and more interested in the politics of the land, given the Internet’s ability to engage them.

The ruling party is now more open to bloggers and also using new media to reach out to the masses. However, some of the opposition members are not convinced and remain sceptical. It remains to be seen how the ruling party will use the Internet and other online means to win back the political war.

Hm…do you think Singaporeans will take to the Internet for political issues, like the Malaysians?