The Guide To Not Going To Jail For Blogging

There is a crux in Malaysia regarding the state of affairs that relate to the local government and local bloggers. It seems that Malaysia tends to put a lot of effort into cracking down on political bloggers due to the critical nature of their posts. If it isn’t politically aligned newspapers suing bloggers, it’s bloggers being arrested for charges that are still unclear.

Now of course, the Malaysian government plans to put into effect laws that allows the police to detain bloggers if they are suspected of “seditious” and “hateful” posts that would upset the “harmony of the country”. One of which is the Internal Security Act (ISA), which much like the old laws during times of communist threats and the new anti-terrorism laws in the states, gives them the right to hold you without counsel or visitation rights for a very long time.

Of course, no blogger in their right mind would like that. The torture of not blogging for more than a couple of days itself is enough to break a person. So I’ve compiled a small guide to remind bloggers big and small what you can do to make sure you don’t get tangled in the messy web that is going to send you to jail. While this works for bloggers in Malaysia who face this problem, it works well too for people all over the world.

Edrei’s Guide To Not Having Your Ass Kicked By The Law For Blogging

  1. Use Common Sense:
    I don’t really have to stress this enough. If you’re going to blog about how dumb the government is, how to take drugs or how your current partner is the sweetest thing in the world. Don’t use names unless you’re willing to face up to the consequences. Or better yet, don’t do it unless you have a damn good reason for it. The only thing worse than waking up in the middle of the night by men in black suits come to take you away for what you wrote on your blog is having them ask for the phone number of your sweetie so that they can go out with them while you rot your ass in jail.
  2. Use Facts Not Emotions:
    Yes, you might hate people for what they do, but unless it’s a late breaking story or you know things that other people don’t. There is no reason for you to blog about it, especially with commentary that crosses the line between witty sarcasm (which apparently the government is “good” at picking up) and direct insults (which the government is very good at picking up). If you’re going to be picked up anyway, you might as well have information that can be held accountable in a court of law. “You’re all bloody idiots” isn’t exactly admissible evidence in your defence.
  3. Be Far Far Away:
    The easiest solution is definitely the most obvious one. Don’t be in the country when you’re writing about it. They can’t get you if you’re not in the country to begin with. More likely than not, they’ll ignore you all the same dismissing you as someone who doesn’t know a thing about Malaysia because you’re not in it. Failing that of course is to use servers that aren’t located in the country to begin with. Legal jurisdiction stops across borders. Some countries still have very strict privacy laws to stop that sort of riff raff from coming in and messing up the whole vibe.
  4. Be a Comment Nazi:
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if this is any reason to monitor your comments like a hawk on the last morsel of food, this would be it. While most people hate the idea of putting their comments under constant “moderation until approved”, if you’re not on your blog 24/7, that might be the best idea. Of course, you cannot have that without at least telling the public that you either reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or that comment do no reflect the ideal of the blogger. Having disclaimers help in a legal sense. Better to police your own comments rather than have the police comment on you.
  5. Have Friends In High Places:
    If you ever get into a spot of trouble with the law, having friends who deal with the law is your best bet of survival. More so if they themselves are sympathetic to blogging or are bloggers. They can get the word out or even get you out. People say lawyers are evil things sent by the devil. Those people probably never have had their ass kicked to jail for blogging.
  6. Be An Angel:
    I’m not really asking you to be good all the time, but at least have the reputation to be nice, both in your blog and in real life. If you got a rebellious uncontrolled streak that’s well documented in your blog, rest assured, they can use that against you. If you’re nice and easily read on your blog, a one off commentary is probably going to leave you with a warning. Or course, if you ever do get brought in by the police. Be sure you’re in your best behaviour. Being cooperative is going to make things easier on you in the long run. Being caught with swearing at the cops with a gun in your back pocket while smoking a joint for charges brought up from your blog isn’t going to bode too well in the image department.

So there we have it. The simple yet effective guide to not having your ass kicked to jail because of your blog. Remember, there is no harm in the freedom of speech, but freedom of speech doesn’t always constitute to freedom to “say whatever you want”. Always use your head and remember for anything that you do, there are always consequences. They can’t touch you if you thought out your actions clearly enough.

That being said, keep expressing your thoughts. That’s what blogs are for and will always be for. Short of a great big firewall, there is no way anyone can stop the onslaught of opinions. After all…what’s a country without the individuals that make it?

15 thoughts on “The Guide To Not Going To Jail For Blogging

  1. It’s a pretty scary thing when the freedom of speech, the freedom to express dissenting opinions against your own government are stifled. While things aren’t quite as bad here (I’ve yet to be arrested for any blog posts, although I have been investigated by Homeland Security for — get this — overpayment on a bill), it’s a sad state of affairs when the climate is such that this sort of behaviour becomes acceptable.

    Of course, abuses wrought about by a government on its people will usually end in revolution. Sad but true, that the tree of freedom must be watered every so often with the blood of idealists.

  2. Haha, God bless Homeland Security. At least they didn’t name it Fatherland Security. That’ll raise the eyes of a few old Germans.

    The thing about revolutions are that they need a critical point in where the majority of the people are unable to tolerate the situation. The all you need is a handful of people willing to lead the masses and you have your own anarchy. In Malaysia at least, that critical point is far from being reached. All you have is a handful of people who spend their time online and the rest of the country unable to comprehend what blogs are.

    If anything, there isn’t much speech here to be free about to begin with.

  3. I always use the good ole WP way of moderating: if I’ve approved a comment by someone previously, I let them comment freely, and then review them afterwards. If I haven’t approved a comment prior, it’s held for me to approve or deny.

  4. The thing about revolutions are that they need a critical point in where the majority of the people are unable to tolerate the situation.

    Not necessarily true. In the American revolution, only about 20% of the people were really cheesed off. 20% were hardcore loyalists. The other 60% didn’t want to be disturbed (and didn’t get in the way of the first 20% because they were ticked, too. Of course, this may have been an exception, but my studying of history, if it has shown me anything, it’s that most changes are generally brought about by surprisingly small groups of intensely determined people.

  5. Ryan: The catch to that is that people can leave comments in which you approve beforehand only to leave comments that get you into trouble later on. You still need to keep close eye on what kind of comments are in your blog to begin with.

    Gnorb: Really? That is interesting. I was thinking more along the lines of the French and Russian revolution where the majority of the population was severely cheesed off.

  6. LOL on item #1… this is a great list. I’m going to refer to it each time I feel like ranting about ‘sensitive issues’. btw thanks for commenting on my blog 🙂

  7. Pelf: That’s actually tip #1. Don’t do it unless you have a damn good reason for it. 🙂

    Adino: Common mistake made by most bloggers. No one really bothers to ask themselves what would happen if they do. Sometimes it’s just too late to take back what you wrote.

  8. Pelf,
    Point #7 is indeed valid I guess 🙂
    Try looking it from another perspective though. Reading the poem from Pastor Martin Niemölleron as quoted in Jeff’s blog yesterday and one should realised that there are also dangers in political apathy.

  9. Rez: As I said, it’s not a matter of ignoring it. It’s a matter of not saying things you best not know. Anyone can talk. Few can actually talk sense. It’s the talking crap that usually gets people into trouble.

  10. Kami: Yeah, I got what you were saying and I agree on what you have said in your post. Writing sensibly is something all Malaysian bloggers has to start practicing if they have not already done so.

    My earlier comments was only referring to Pelf’s point of views 🙂

  11. Interesting post, I’m surprised to hear this about Malaysia, but then again Malaysian politics hardly gets much exposure here in the UK.

    I would say consider the anonymity option if one really wanted to go the dissident route. That means setting up an anonymous blog but more importantly posting from an anonymous computer (Internet Cafes).

  12. Andrew: Well, it’s on BBC lately so that’s got to be a big enough news. Anonymity always works of course, people have to get it through their heads that blogging isn’t always about the publicity. It’s about the things you have to say that makes for a point. If you don’t have a point, there isn’t a reason to blog.

  13. But then again, sometimes some people’s “damn good reasons” are actually silly reasons.. I think we should have a point #8:
    “Never publish anything that you wouldn’t like written about yourself.”
    Actually, it’s “Do unto others what you want others do unto you.”

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