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Stop rattling bloggers Zam, embrace New Media

I refer to the malaysiakini report Zam recommends labels for bloggers .

If Minister of Information Zainuddin Maidin could have his way, he would like to read a magic mantra 'Zam Zam Ala-kazam ...' and wish that all the bloggers would disappear. He suggested that bloggers be officially categorised as 'professionals' and 'non-professionals' as a mechanism of control.

He said certain individuals and groups were misusing blogs for personal agendas, such as questioning constitutional religious matters and causing public uneasiness.

To his own ignorance and lack of understanding of our constitutional rights, probing or questioning dubious actions taken which are detrimental to our rights of religious freedom, enshrined in the federal constitution, is a right thing to do.

The Ministry of Information is planning a 'counter attack' on bloggers. I would like to encourage him to implement this idea and participate in the blogsphere. This way, his team of bloggers will be able to respond to any alleged slander or lies.

On his idea of 'professionals', Zainuddin said they were more responsible in publishing truthful content and were not rumour-mongers. Zainuddin said such classifications would allow readers to determine whether the blog contents were truthful.

The suggestion made by him sounded so superficial and desperate. I say this on two accounts - first, who is supposed to do the classification? Zam and his team in the ministry or the 'old boys' in the mass media? Second, if these are the people who will be involved how can he expect the readers to take them (and their ratings) seriously?

He echoed Nice-Matin Press Group chief executive Michel Camboul who mentioned that the French government needs to classify bloggers. According to Zainuddin, Camboul also expressed concern over blogs having an impact on newspaper circulation and advertising there. Camboul is a perfect example of a media dinosaur.

Zainuddin also asserted that should blog sites be recognised as an alternative press, it would force newspapers out of business and that rural people who depended on newspapers would be denied their right to information.

The Star's Wong Chun Wai has already asked the government to acknowledge the emergence of the New Media or citizen journalists. He urged the government to allow more openness for the media to engage the public and the government on pertinent issues. His call is timely.

However, some media organisations, especially those controlled by political parties, more than often gave a wrong perception to their readers. They are seen to be pulling their punches when it comes to reporting on poor governance and policies. Most of them are conducting excessive self-censorship.

In the last decade, we have seen an unhealthy corporate culture creeping into the newsrooms. Most of the media organisations are more concerned about their bottom line than their social obligation to the public. No wonder most of them are concerned about dwindling circulations and advertising revenue in the advent of New Media.

Zainuddin should not resort to intimidation and fear tactics to rattle the bloggers or citizen journalists because this is simply not going to work. He and his colleagues might as well try to change their own mindsets and embrace the New Media while it is still not too late.