Malaysian online political commentators have formed a group to protect bloggers' interests after two of them were sued by a newspaper with close government ties.
The National Alliance of Bloggers' main goal is to "protect bloggers," and to try to get the government to see their point of view and why they have made certain postings, the new group's president, Ahirudin Attan, wrote on his popular blog "Rocky's Bru."
The alliance was formed late Thursday, Ahirudin wrote.
About 50 of Malaysia's popular online personalities held a meeting and decided to start the organization because a few bloggers were being "demonized again and again" by the government, Ahirudin said.
"When certain quarters in government become hostile towards bloggers, I believe they mean to aim their hostility at a small group of bloggers or online writers whose views and takes of current affairs they fear," Ahirudin wrote.
Ahirudin and Jeff Ooi, his deputy in the alliance, are being sued by the government-linked New Straits Times newspaper, which alleges that the two men made defamatory postings about the paper on their sites.
The government has also said it may consider registering bloggers to control anonymous posts with "malicious content." Authorities often use such terms for criticism of the government, or for discussions on race or religion — sensitive matters in the multiethnic, Muslim-majority country.
"If the politicians do not want to take the effort to learn about blogging and to understand bloggers, I believe the bloggers will have to take that initiative," Ahirudin said, without elaborating.
On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said bloggers have made the "business of government more challenging."
"Some merely inform, others argue a point of view, and a few simply distort and sensationalize," Najib said. "There is now more competition for readership, viewership, eyeballs, revenues, profits and, yes, even infamy."
His comments were the latest from government ministers who have spoken out against online commentators.
While political parties and the government control much of Malaysia's traditional media, many of its most popular blogs criticize government policies.