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Need for online media watch
Alternative news sites also came to fore, pulling in readers hungry for differing views.
Fledgling news site, Malaysiakini.com, registered 250,000 cumulative hits in its first 10 days leading up the polls, with a high of 75,000 hits on polling day.
Editor Steven Gan said he sees a day when alternative Internet media may eventually become a mainstay in influencing public opinion. "As more and more people go online, the Internet will become one of the main mediums of public discourse. Politicians ignore it at their own peril. Cyber-campaigning will be one of the many tools which politicians must adopt if they are to survive in the digital age," he said.
Malaysiakini.com even took on its print rivals--often cited for being too compliant and pro-government--when it broke election stories questioning their stance.
One story showed how Malaysia's biggest Chinese language newspaper Sin Chew Jit Poh had altered a 1995 group picture of National Front leaders by replacing the head of then deputy chairman Anwar Ibrahim with that of current deputy chairman Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Another showed how The Star demanded amendments to advertisements in support of opposition Alternative Front, and rejected one with a photo of Anwar sporting the now-famous black eye.
"I believe the media should be made accountable. Which is why there is a need for some kind of online media watch. Malaysiakini.com intends to do just that," said Gan.
He added that though the electoral roll was made available online the various irregularities that arose suggested that the Election Commission was not up to mark yet.
There were numerous complaints of discrepancies in the "official" list, including allegations of "phantom" voters, listings of dead voters, transfers of voters to different constituencies without their consent and cases of two voters' names popping up when one identity card number was typed in.
An Election Commission representative blamed the discrepancies on "data entry errors".
Almost 680,000 voters were also excluded from voting this time, although they registered in April or May because the commission could not update the roll in time.
"The commission has been forced to keep up with the times by adopting new technology. But that has also opened up a new can of worms. Citizens are now using the same technology to keep an eye on the commission. Many are asking why, in this age of the Internet, the commission needs more than eight months to update the electoral roll. Only two words can describe the performance of the commission: sheer incompetence," said Gan.
Gan, like others, believes that although the opposition took to the Internet like ducks to water since Anwar's sacking in September last year, the Net's reach has not been wide enough to make a real difference in this election. "But in five years' time, there will be a digital generation and they will definitely be a force to reckon with," he said.
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