The Malaysian Insider
Mar 04, 2013
MARCH 4 — As the country enters the home stretch before Election 2013, many Malaysians have been receiving emails from people with strange sounding names like Abrihim Malawaki.
Using anonymous names much like those in the infamous letters from so-called former Nigerian military generals imploring us to help them unlock millions of dollars, these letters provide links instead to equally anonymous websites set up overnight to attack Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
While there is nothing wrong with criticising Anwar and the opposition parties, the anonymous nature of these emails and the websites being promoted raises serious questions about their credibility and who is behind the attacks.
This strategy of demonisng Anwar bears striking resemblance to the one employed against him in the international media in a campaign that was apparently funded by the Malaysian government.
Last week, it was revealed that Putrajaya’s media strategist APCO Worldwide covertly financed international media reports in a campaign against Anwar after Election 2008, filings to the United States Department of Justice had revealed.
Widely-read New York-based news portal Buzzfeed Politics reported last week that media outlets from Huffington Post and Washington Times to San Francisco Examiner and National Review carried several articles by right-wing American writers, most notably Joshua Trevino, who had been engaged by global publicity firm APCO Worldwide.
The emails from Malawaki, or whatever his name is, range from standard links to articles critical of Anwar — a few of which are actually fair comment — to attacks and insinuations which can only be described as vile and unsubstantiated.
In one email spam, Malawaki suggested that Bersih leader Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and Anwar had more than a platonic relationship.
In another, Malawaki provided a link to a website that carried an article alleging Pope Benedict’s recent resignation was because he had also engaged in sexual abuse.
Here’s the thing. Do such tactics work?
The campaign in the US, organised by APCO, has had little impact in how international news organisations cover Malaysia.
It can be argued that the Malaysian government has lost some credibility as a result of the exposure that it has engaged in paying for positive news coverage.
Will setting up instant websites and anonymous emails weeks before an election work to drive voters from the opposition, if indeed that is the aim?
Or will it actually strengthen the resolve of many Malaysians against the Barisan Nasional (BN) that they will stop listening even if the ruling coalition puts forward a credible and good plan to move the country forward?