Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bypass censorship using social media, relevant or not?

Malaysia bumps along the bottom of international rankings for press freedom, but the explosion of social media like Twitter and Facebook is revolutionising how journalists work.

Dissenting views, which for decades were screened out of the government-linked mainstream media, are now everywhere, including the blogosphere and mobile SMS messages, making repression extremely difficult.

One veteran reporter with one of the country's leading newspapers said that for most of his career it was virtually impossible to write about the opposition or any issues deemed off-limits by authorities.

"But today, government MPs are forced to engage and debate their counterparts across the aisle in social media like Twitter and Facebook, allowing us to report on the opposition and avoid much censorship," he says.

"Where previously we had to accept at face value a minister's version of events or policies, today their disgruntled aides and opponents are already tweeting or leaking details on Facebook, giving us uncensored access."

"Although the restrictions and controls are still in place, it's become much harder to censor what the opposition or rights groups say in the media," says the journalist who, due to the sensitivity of the issue, declined to be named.

Malaysia was ranked 131st out of 175 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom index, because of its tight controls on print and broadcast media.

The watchdog says Malaysia prevents journalists from properly covering sensitive subjects such as corruption or human rights abuses, using a publishing permit system which allows it to shut down media outlets at will.

After decades of such policies, self-censorship became rife and political leaders hardly even needed to make the much-feared phone call to the news room. But the seeds of change were sown in 1996 when the government pledged not to censor online content as part of a campaign to promote its information technology sector.

Despite occasional raids, bans and government criticism, the web and online media remain relatively free.

Today, Facebook fan pages highlighting political rallies and civil society forums, as well as Twitter exchanges with lawmakers, have reshaped the reporting landscape.

"All our reporters have Blackberry’s and use that to follow these tweets. The social media has changed the way journalists work in fundamental ways," says Premesh Chandran, the founder of pioneer online news portal Malaysiakini.

Chandran says the new immediacy hampers government attempts to "spin" or control a story as journalists get real-time reaction from the opposition and experts and use it to seek an immediate response from officials.

With the advent of Twitter, politicians from both sides of the aisle freely disseminate their views, so much so that legislators have been known to take debates out of the chamber and continue them in the Twitterverse. Social media also have a knack of eliciting more candid commentary than politicians would usually choose to put in a regular press release.

That phenomenon was on display this week when Khairy Jamaluddin, influential leader of the ruling party's youth wing, gave a quick response to a government decision not to drop a ban on students joining political parties. "Cabinet decision not allowing university students to be involved in political parties is gutless and indicates outdated thinking," he said in a much-discussed tweet.

Opposition politician Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, 28, tweets daily on his constituency work, lists all his public events on Facebook and even carries out interviews and dialogues online. "Social media definitely gives the opposition and alternative voices a space to express our views without censorship," he says.

"The limitation is that we are restricted to 140 characters on Twitter so we can't really flesh out many of the arguments and positions but it at least allows people and the media to read and understand our perspective. "Malaysians have flocked to the Internet for news and views, a phenomenon credited with the opposition's stunning performance in 2008 polls when the government lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time.

RSF's regional correspondent Patrice Victor says the Malaysian experience could be replicated in other countries as they develop a potent combination of repressive governments and reasonable Internet access.

"We are seeing social media free the way journalists report in this region and the trend in Malaysia can also be seen happening in Singapore, Thailand and Burma (Myanmar)," he says.

"Governments here are slowly realising that it is very hard to censor and restrict information once people have access to the Net and this trend of using social media to break down censorship looks like it is here to stay."

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bahaya Ketagihan Internet berlebihan

HONG KONG - Remaja yang berlebihan menghabiskan masa di Internet adalah satu setengah kali lebih mungkin mengalami depresi daripada pengguna web sederhana, sebuah studi di China telah dijumpai.

Penyelidik Lawrence Lam menggambarkan beberapa tanda-tanda pengeluaran berlebihan sekurang-kurangnya lima hingga lebih dari 10 jam sehari di web, agitasi ketika remaja tidak di depan komputer dan kehilangan minat dalam interaksi sosial.

"Setiap menghabiskan lebih dari 10 jam sehari, mereka benar-benar problematis pengguna dan mereka menunjukkan tanda-tanda dan gejala perilaku adiktif ... browsing internet, main-main," kata Lam, co-author dari makalah yang diterbitkan pada Selasa di Archives of Pediatrics & Medical Remaja.

"Mereka tidak boleh mendapatkan fikiran mereka dari Internet, mereka merasa gelisah jika mereka tidak kembali pada selepas jangka masa singkat yang jauh," psikolog di Sydney University of Notre Dame's School of Medicine mengatakan dalam sebuah wawancara telefon.

"Mereka tidak mahu melihat teman-teman, tidak mahu bergabung dengan pertemuan keluarga, tidak mahu menghabiskan masa bersama-sama orang tua atau saudara kandung."

Penyelidikan ini melibatkan 1.041 remaja berusia antara 13 dan 18 tahun di bandar selatan Guangzhou China yang bebas dari kemelesetan pada awal siasatan.

Sembilan bulan kemudian, 84 daripada mereka dinilai sebagai menderita depresi dan mereka yang berada di Internet berlebihan adalah satu-dan setengah-kali lebih rentan daripada pengguna moderat.

"Keputusan menyarankan bahawa orang-orang muda yang pada awalnya tidak dari masalah kesihatan mental tetapi menggunakan Internet patologis dapat mengembangkan depresi sebagai konsekuensinya," tulis Lam, yang turut menulis kertas dengan-wen Peng Zi di Sun Yat-Sen University Sekolah Kesihatan Masyarakat di Guangzhou.

Depresi mungkin akibat dari kurang tidur dan stres dari permainan online kompetitif, jelasnya. "Orang yang menghabiskan banyak masa di Internet sehingga akan kehilangan tidur dan ini adalah mapan fakta bahawa kurang satu tidur, semakin tinggi kemungkinan kemelesetan," kata Lam. Lam mengatakan ini merupakan kajian pertama melihat ke patologis menggunakan Internet sebagai penyebab yang mungkin untuk depresi.

Sebuah kajian dahulu menunjuk depresi sebagai faktor penyebab yang mungkin untuk kecanduan internet, sedangkan beberapa kajian lain menunjukkan hubungan antara dua tanpa jelas menunjuk yang menyebabkan dan mana yang hasilnya.

Lam disebut bagi sekolah untuk paparan pelajar untuk kecanduan internet, sehingga mereka boleh menerima kaunseling dan rawatan.

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