The 1st Malaysia-ASEAN Regional Bloggers Conference had its culminating event last week at Kuala Lumpur’s posh Intercontinental Hotel, and was participated in by Malaysian bloggers and journalists, as well as by invited bloggers from 7 ASEAN countries. The latter group had held a session to discuss the conference’s desired output — the Kuala Lumpur Consensus — and to consider ideas on how to perpetuate the synergies that have been initiated by Blog House Malaysia.
Please read Tonyo Cruz’s summarized account of the conference. The KL Consensus is spelled out in that post, which also includes links to blog posts by some of the Southeast Asian participants.
From day one, it was clear that the focus of the conference would be on socio-political blogging and the challenges and opportunities it encompasses. And throughout the conference and during socials, we had the chance to exchange ideas with fellow Asian bloggers in discussing issues such as government incursions into the social media arena, freedom of expression, cultural differences across Asian blogospheres, and others.
The conference was keynoted by Malaysia’s current prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib bin Tun Razak, who declared that his government would never censor the Internet. Although I will always take what politicians say with a grain of salt, I’m glad that one Asian leader has declared this principle. He did qualify, however, that bloggers should be responsible for their actions, and went on to admonish the bloggers at the conference about the perils of reckless online publishing. The prime minister’s statements, to me, was a less than 100% commitment to real freedom of expression. I wonder how Malaysian politicians will react to bloggers seriously critical of their administration?
What was curious about the prime minister’s speech was, at the end, he declared, “We are not afraid of bloggers.” I thought it was totally coming from left field…
Malaysia’s former prime minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, was the guest of honor at the conference. He is hailed as the country’s most popular blogger. My Malaysian friends tell me that what makes Dr. Mahathir, who ruled for 22 years, a popular blogger is his acerbic assessment of some of the government’s programs. (But, for the life of me, I can’t seem to browse his blog. I was told that the URL is chedet.co.cc and also chedet.com — “Chedet” being his pen name — but neither site is accessible at the moment.)
The conference organizers were able to give the Southeast Asian bloggers a chance to interact with Dr. Mahathir and his wife, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah binti Mohamad Ali. When I asked the former leader for a few words for President Noynoy Aquino, he said that he hopes Aquino would live up to the reputation of his mother and father. He also added that he recognizes the serious challenges facing the Philippine president, and wishes him all the best.
Bloggers in ASEAN
The ASEAN model could very well be applied to a region-wide blogosphere: a coming together of Bruneian, Burmese Cambodian, Filipino, Indonesian, Laotian, Singaporean, Thai and Vietnamese bloggers who could form a regional online discussion of common issues, and organize Southeast Asian events.
Kudos to Blog House Malaysia, and to all the Southeast Asian bloggers who formulated the KL Consensus! Here’s to hoping that it will bear fruit very soon!