The current campaign bypasses the biased mainstream, reports Asia Sentinel

Online media, already a major factor in Malaysia’s 2008 general election, has exploded this time around with newer platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and others transforming electioneering for both the opposition and the government.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, right, shares a light moment with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Pic: AP.

In a country where virtually all mainstream media outlets are owned by pro-government political parties, the rapid growth of social media outlets is not just a social phenomenon but also a key part of the political process.

(READ MORE: Election 2013: Testing times for Malaysia’s old media)

According to statistics, there are 2 million Twitter users in the country, compared with only 3,000 in 2008. Any large political event is amplified by millions of tweets and posts as dramatic pictures are passed around showing tens of thousands of supporters attending opposition rallies. Who cares about the front page of a newspaper? If violence threatens, as it often has, witnesses record the action, posting it immediately on Facebook, which has 13 million user accounts in Malaysia, and YouTube, where 67 percent of all online videos end up.

The online media is crucial to the opposition, which is nearly frozen out of traditional print and broadcast outlets. “Watching the Watchdog,” a study released this week by Malaysia’s Center for Independent Journalism in conjunction with the UK-based University of Nottingham, found just how biased the mainstream media can be. Drawing from data gathered the week of April 7-15, the chart below shows the ruling Barisan Nasional, or BN, getting 97.5 percent favorable or neutral coverage in the mainstream media, against less than 20 percent for the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

By contrast, news coverage on the Internet was far more even, with the volume of coverage slightly higher for the Barisan, at 49.42 percent against 47.14 percent for Pakatan Rakyat.

Continue reading at Asia Sentinel