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Democratic participation and the Malaysian Blogosphere

The essences of democracy comprises of freedom of political expression, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. These attributes are essentially important elements for a democratic society to flourish. From the era of Napoleon Bonaparte, who famously stated, “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets” (1804-14) in 19th century to the modern 21st century, the media have well been recognized as a strong political power, because of its strength and ability to influence the beliefs and perceptions of the populations.

The capability for expression increases the participatory nature of democracy in cyberspace while significantly breaking old traditional media hierarchies. In the world of blogosphere today, many of the bloggers are their own writers, editors, publishers and bosses. They set their own rules and agenda on what to write, what to publish, what to censor and so on.

The power of this new communication tool between citizens can result in the creation of an empowered civil society and the possibility for a political action.

Access to information is no longer dominated by the traditional media. This is noticeably proven in the 10th general election in 1999 whereby even though the ruling party of Barisan Nasional still holds great influence over the mass media, they suffered huge losses, including losing the state of Terengganu. This occurred during an era where the Internet penetration in Malaysia is still low.

More recently, the devastating results of the 12th general election in 2008 by Barisan Nasional is a clear signal that they can no longer rely on the traditional media to communicate their political messages to influence the public.

While it is often perceived by the public that blogs and bloggers are more inclined to support the opposition parties, yet there are also examples of blog campaigns which, though not directly seen as being pro government, at least it supports the same cause as the ruling party.

One example worth mentioning here is the “Daulat Tuanku campaign” which was launched in support for the Monarchy in the wake of Pakatan Rakyat’s utter disrespect toward the Sultan Azlan Shah, especially in relating to Karpal Singh’s plan to sue the Perak Sultan during the height of the Perak political crisis in February 2009.

The impact of blogs and the rapid evolution of new media technologies have caused the democratisation process on the society to be inevitable, specifically in the sense of a greater freedom of speech, freedom of political expression and political participation.

Blog, as a medium for political expression, is here to stay, and will continue to have a major impact on the political scene.

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This article was first published at Klik4Malaysia.com

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