BEFORE he was Zorro Unmasked, ex-teacher Bernard Khoo was a fiery commenter on many blogs who went by the moniker Zorro. When Jeff Ooi and I made our mark in Jan 2006 as the first bloggers in the whole wide world to be sued by a newspaper, Bernard started his own blog. Back then, to reveal oneself as the operator of a blog critical of the government was a foolhardy thing to do. I was there when Zorro was deciding whether he should stop hiding behind anonymity. After a few beers, Zorro became Zorro Unmasked and today he's still a fiery anti-BN (or pro-Pakatan - sometimes it is hard to tell) voice, and since then many anonymous bloggers have done the same. Big Dog, Sheih Kickdefella and OutSyed The Box were also ex-Anons. For some, it was inevitable. The alleged real ID of A Voice, for example, was exposed by a fellow blogger (a former BN Adun who is today the only DAP Melayu MP) during a heated cyber exchange.
Many more have kept their masks on. Some felt it was the safer thing to do given the blog-unfriendly BN government that we had back then; some had very good reasons to remain anons. They were wise. Big Dog, Syed, Kickdefella and A Voice were all "brought in" one time or the other by the MCMC, the police, or the courts.
Thanks to Allah, the BN government now is a lot friendlier to blogs and cyberspace. That's mainly because PM Najib Razak is a believer in the Internet. During the Abdullah Administration, Najib was the only BN leader who openly engaged with some of us. It came as no surprise that when he succeeded Dollah, the entire BN government transformed itself in haste into a web of FBs, twitter, blogs, etc. So much so that during the PRU13, Umno even had a war room just to manage the social media. And immediately after the election, with the series of exposes about the overrated Red Bean Army of the Pakatan Rakyat, a decision was made by the party leadership to create a stand-alone department to plan an Internet campaign from now until the next general election in four or five years time.
Given these developments, I find the suggestion by the PM to compel social media practitioners and bloggers to reveal their real ID as out of sync. Especially when the suggestion was made as soon as he'd said Malaysia won't try to emulate Singapore's licensing framework for news portals, a decision hailed even by A Kadir Jasin. In my experience, it is not easy at all to make an impact in cyberspace as an Anon. Unless you have a reputation as an Anon that churns nothing else but porn clips involving politicians. In which case you will have traffic but not authority nor credibility.
My suggestion as told to several journalists who called me for my views yesterday is this: keep the pressure to disseminate news responsibly on:
1. the mainstream media, eg NST, RTM, Media Prima, Astro, the Star, Sin Chew, Tamil Nesan, etc and
2. the news portals, e.g. Malaysiakini, the dying Malaysian Insider, Malaysia Today, Sabahkini, Mole, all MSM portals, Malaysian Digest, etc.
It is very simple. We bloggers, facebookers, tweeps and what-nots get our news from either 1 or 2, or both. If they get it right, the people at the end of this food chain will most probably NOT get it wrong. If there's s scandal involving the government and Bernama or the Sun tried to cover up, that's irresponsible. If the same scandal is amplified x100 by Malaysian Chronicle or Sarawak Report, that's equally irresponsible.
Back to basics. Set up a Media Council so that the industry can self-regulate. Of course, easier said than done.