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It appears that the identity of Jilbab Hitam, the nom de plume of a putative ex-Tempo reporter who caused an uproar in the Indonesian online and journalism communities when he accused Tempo and its editors of trying to shake down Mandiri in a posting in Kompasiana.com.
That posting has been taken down long ago but in another posting in Kompasiana by Sutomo Paguchi who describes himself as a citizen journalist in Padang, and advocate, a nonpartisan and who writes for recreational purposes, he claims that Jilbab Hitam has been identified as an ex-Detik.com reporter who had been dismissed for shaking down Karakatau Steel when it had its IPO.
The author also posts a press release, apparently from the writer’s workplace IDEA Group, saying that the writer has admitted to being Jilbab Hitam. They said they were not involved in the authorship of the controversial article and that the writer has left its employment.
All very good. But that hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from trying to hunt down what it perceives to be the true motive of Jilbab Hitam. The speculation was that he was paid to do the hatchet job. But by whom?
Nobody is naming any names yet but one or a few will probably crop up soon.
Strange things are happening on the Net in Indonesia.
The latest is the kerfuffle on Twitter yesterday after a putative ex-Tempo journalist with the nom de plume Jilbab Hitam wrote in a blogpost accusing Tempo and the other large newspapers of systematically extorting money and being in collusion with vested powers.
The post was taken down from its blog. It appeared briefly in Kompasiana and then was taken down. A copy now resides in Rima. news (click here). The articles named names, some of which are the most respected in journalism; made accusations and also dragged in a prominent ex-journalist turned researcher as well as a columnist turned researcher.
Reaction to the posting has been mixed but noisy. Some jumped straight away to condemning the accused prominent media and journalists. Others claimed it was an act of fitnah (libel). Others too the cautious time-will-tell route and asked the media houses named to tell their side of the story, even against an anonymous writer.
In an era when the even the highest institutions of law such as the Constitutional Court are enmeshed in allegations of corruption, one does not know what to believe.
Similarly confusing and seemingly improbably was an article in Kabarnet yesterday where the head of the Anti Corruption Commission (KPK) Abraham Samad apparently railed and threatened President SBY with arrest. Kabarnet quoted a Twitter account apparently belonging to Abraham Samad, but the article did not say whether it tried to verify that the Tweets were from Abraham Samad or whether his account was hijacked.
These are strange days on the Net, that was once supposed to unleash an era of openness and transparency now pulls a veil of confusion over its Netizenry. What is one to make of these stories?
Unspun’s reminded of the Gandhi witticism: “Those who engage in mudslinging often lose ground” in the unfolding case between Twitterati Benny Handoko (@benhan) and Golkar politician Misbahkun (@misbakhun). For the current development of the case see here.
As things stand, Benny is now under detention for allegedly slandering Misbahkun over the Bank Century case, after the latter complained to the police. The series of twits that has led to this serious turn of events is captured in Jackson Purba’s Chirpstory feed “TwitWar Misbakhun Vs Benhan” by @misbakhun N @benhan.
As the Chirpstory feed clearly shows @benhan fired the first salvo by accusing @misbahkun. A Twitwar ensured where @misbahkun duked it out with @benhan, Twitblow for Twitblow. The virtual slugfest, after 100 tweets ended after @misbahkun warned @benhan to retract his statement and apologize or he would file legal charges.
Now it appears that @misbahkun has followed up on that threat and is getting the Indonesian Twitterverse riled up because of his action.
It is an interesting incident as the central issue here is whether you have a right to sue (or in the case of Indonesia, file a police report against) someone for slander after you’ve duked it out with them on Twitter.
True, the Internet and Twitter does not, and should not, exonerate anyone from slandering another person. Twitter, however, allows you to talk back and have your say to whomever is interested in what you have to say. So several interesting questions pop to mind here:
- Would Misbahkun have been morally justified to take legal action against Benny if he did not use his Twitter account to engage in a Twitwar with Benny. Would it have been Ok if he merely used his Twitter account (20,343 followers) to say that Benny was incorrect and that if he persisted he would take legal action, and left it at that?
- Did Misbahkun waive his moral right to legal action after engaging in a Twitwar? Would going to the law after arguably losing a fight with Benhan (a Twitter heavyweight at 49,799 followers) make him look like a sore loser?
- Finally here’s a question for social media and issues management typed: There is a lot of noise in the Indonesian Twitterverse. Would Misbahkun be better off had he ignored @Benhan’s tweets and let it pass rather than wage a Twitwar and file a legal action? Would such a course of action – benign neglect – have hurt his reputation? (not say he has a great one but would such an action lower his reputation from what it was before the Twitwar?)
Looks like its time for a vox populi on the issue:
In fad conscious Indonesia, blogging has somewhat lost its glister among the online community. It was very big about 8 years ago when a whole group of us including Ndorokakung, Enda Nasution, Shinta Bubu, Priyadi, fatih Syuhud, Budi Putra got together and created the first Pesta Blogger in 2007.
It attracted about 500 bloggers from all over Indonesia. Then came Twitter and Facebook and all of a sudden everyone was in social media. It was easier to express thoughts in 140 characters, Facebook was more entertaining, fast and easy to use and blogging’s popularity waned.
By 2011, the last year of Pesta Blogger, we had changed the concept to ON|OFF but the nature of the online community, once a close-knit and supportive group, had changed. It was now more diffused, and everyone was doing their thing. All sorts of organizations were also trying to organize their blogging/social media event. The space became a red ocean and it looked like a good time to move on for my company maverick, that had been organizing the Pesta Blogger series of events for seven years.
So it was with a pleasant surprise that Unspun received an email last week from the Langsat Community inviting him and other for a Muktamar Blogger, an event traditionally held for bloggers to get together on the eve of Pesta Blogger. With Pesta Blogger gone they are still holding this event to celebrate blogging.
Brings back many memories and Unspun for one plans to go there to catch up with some old friends, shoot the breeze with others and bring Unspun Jr there so that he can have an idea of that species of humans known as blogers. Who knows, he and his generation might be organizing Pesta Blogger 2030 when the fad cycle comes round again?
This was the invite letter and if you’re free betweek 11am and 5pm today drop by Taman Langsat to check the event out.
Kami atas nama komunitas Blogger Bunderan HI ingin mengundang kehadiran sampeyan di acara “Muktamar Blogger 2013″ yang akan diadakan di:
Lokasi: Taman Langsat, Jalan Langsat 1, Kebayoran Baru, Jaksel (peta terlampir)
Waktu: Sabtu, 1 Juni 2013; jam 11-17 WIB
Acara: Ramah tamah tanpa sekat dan predikat
Muktamar Blogger adalah kegiatan rutin kami untuk menyambut acara Pesta Blogger (PB). Biasanya digelar semalam sebelum PB diadakan keesokan harinya. PB kini sudah tiada, tapi kami tetap merasa perlu mengadakan muktamar sebagai ajang kumpul dan reuni. Tahun ini, kami punya tema; “Blogger ga blogger, yang penting ngeblog!”
Besar harapan kami, sampeyan bisa hadir dan ikut meramaikan acara.
Atas perhatiannya, kami ucapkan terima kasih.
Should Malaysian citizens file a class action suit for wholesale incompetence while spending the taxpayers’ money?
A general election is expected next month in the Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia, and that usually means political shenanigans—abuse of national security laws, media manipulation and character assassination. After the last election in 2008, when the ruling coalition barely held on to power, public anger at such practices prompted Prime Minister Najib Razak to redraft laws and reform the electoral system. However, new revelations that his government paid American journalists to attack opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim raise questions whether those changes went far enough.
In January, conservative American blogger Joshua Treviño belatedly registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, revealing that from 2008-2011 he was paid $389,724.70, as well as a free trip to Malaysia, to provide “public relations and media consultancy” services to the Malaysian government.
These consisted of writing for a website called Malaysia Matters, now defunct, as well as channeling $130,950 to other conservative writers who wrote pro-government pieces for other newspapers and websites. When questioned in 2011 by the Politico website about whether Malaysian interests funded his activities, Mr. Treviño flatly denied it: “I was never on any ‘Malaysian entity’s payroll,’ and I resent your assumption that I was.”
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim
The campaign was more targeted than the Malaysian ruling coalition’s domestic attacks on Mr. Anwar. Mr. Treviño’s site mainly went after the opposition leader for anti-Semitic remarks and his alliance with the Islamist party PAS, and even accused him of links to terrorists through the International Institute of Islamic Thought. Mr. Anwar has made anti-Semitic comments—though that’s in part to fend off domestic accusations that he’s too cozy with Zionists. He also has ties to organizations that have taken Saudi money, but the suggestion that he somehow has “ties to terrorism” is preposterous.
The site also defended an outrageous charge of sodomy brought against Mr. Anwar from 2008-2012, and it criticized the U.S. State Department and The Wall Street Journal for taking Mr. Anwar’s side. These postings were clearly aimed at sowing doubt among other would-be Anwar defenders in the U.S., especially on the right of the U.S. political spectrum.
Mr. Treviño paid other writers who know almost nothing about Malaysia but mimicked his propaganda. The New Ledger, edited by Ben Domenech, was even more vociferous, calling Mr. Anwar a “vile anti-Semite and cowardly woman-abuser.” One posting was entitled, “Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorist money flowing to Anwar Ibrahim.” According to Mr. Treviño’s filing, he paid Mr. Domenech $36,000 for “opinion writing.” Three contributors of anti-Anwar items to the New Ledger—Rachel Motte, Christopher Badeaux and Brad Jackson—were paid $9,500, $11,000 and $24,700 respectively.
Mr. Treviño was initially paid by public relations multinational APCO Worldwide, which had a longstanding contract with the Malaysian government. APCO’s Kuala Lumpur representative through 2010, Paul Stadlen, now works in Prime Minister Najib’s office. David All, who at the time ran his own PR firm and collaborated on Malaysia Matters, also provided cash.
But from 2009-11, the Malaysian money came through Fact-Based Communications, which under the leadership of journalist John Defterios produced programs on client countries for CNN, CNBC and the BBC. After this was revealed in 2011, the three networks dropped all FBC programs, and Atlantic Media Company President Justin Smith resigned from its board.
Influence-peddling has a long and sordid history in Washington, and governments that use repressive methods at home yet want to remain on friendly terms with the U.S. typically have the biggest bankrolls. It’s not unheard of for PR operators to pay less reputable journalists and think-tankers to write favorable coverage, as the Jack Abramoff case in the mid-2000s showed.
The Malaysian scheme, however, is notable because it drew in respected writers such as Rachel Ehrenfeld, who has contributed to the Journal in the past and took $30,000, Claire Berlinski, who got $6,750, and Seth Mandel, an editor at Commentary magazine, who was paid $5,500. Some of the articles appeared in well-known publications such as National Review and the Washington Times.
Mr. Najib’s falling popularity at home suggests his days as Prime Minister could be numbered. The irony is that he was more democratic and played a more responsible role in the region than his predecessors. Even opposition figures have quietly admitted to us that he has steered Malaysia in the right direction. That should have been more than enough for a legitimate public relations operation to work with. Resorting to underhanded tactics to undermine the opposition has only backfired for Mr. Najib, at home and abroad.
A version of this article appeared March 9, 2013, on page A12 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Malaysia’s U.S. Propaganda.