Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Popular Singapore blogger mr brown has been rapped by the information ministry for a piece he wrote in Today as part of his regular column. The government's letter, published in Today on 3 July, establishes that criticism within the mainstream press will be held to a less tolerant standard than what appears online, presumably because the latter is not considered as public to the same degree. The reply is also interesting because it is probably the most detailed statement in recent years about out-of-bounds markers for commentators. The basic principle, though, is similar to what was enunciated in the Catherine Lim affair: the government will decide if you are a partisan player in politics and treat you accordingly.

Here's the relevant section from the government's reply (signed off by K Bhavani, press secretary to the minister):

"mr brown's views on all these issues distort the truth. They are polemics dressed up as analysis, blaming the Government for all that he is unhappy with. He offers no alternatives or solutions. His piece is calculated to encourage cynicism and despondency, which can only make things worse, not better, for those he professes to sympathise with.

mr brown is entitled to his views. But opinions which are widely circulated in a regular column in a serious newspaper should meet higher standards. Instead of a diatribe mr brown should offer constructive criticism and alternatives. And he should come out from behind his pseudonym to defend his views openly.

It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government. If a columnist presents himself as a non-political observer, while exploiting his access to the mass media to undermine the Government's standing with the electorate, then he is no longer a constructive critic, but a partisan player in politics."


haveahacks said...

We'll see what happens, but my sense it that this will end up an own goal a la gomezgate.

Don't know how much Today pays Mr Brown for his weekly column, but I don't think he's dependent on it for a living. His podcast is at least partially sponsored. Added notoriety may increase advertising revenue, at least until such time that the govt requires broadcasting licenses for podcasts. Maybe just in time for the first bill of the delayed parliament.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Cherian

attached is letter rejected by the TODAY's forum editor. They were extremely good in evading responsibilty and there is no better way then just to say, " We will not be publishing any correspondence on this issue (mrbown banishment)" ha ha

Anyway the letter is also posted on my blog http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com

Let us Heed the message, Not shoot the messenger

Dear friends,

I read with interest Ms Bhavani’s retort to mrbrown’s column (Distorting the truth, mr brown ? 3 Jul 06).

What is particularly informative was her assertion that journalists (especially in Singapore), should not “champion issues, or campaign FOR or AGAINST the Government”.

Is this is a new dictum, I wonder, as there were many articles by our journalists in the past which appeared an “awful lot” like campaigning for the Government, but I do not recall anyone getting their knuckles rapped for that.

Seriously, is a journalist expected to be just a “human” tape-recorder recording verbatim the minutes of a board meeting like a company secretary? Anything more could be misconstrued as campaigning for or against an issue.

Let us be reasonable. People (journalist included) will have opinions and these are the sum-aggregates of different sub-cultures that make up Singapore. No one person or organization knows all the answers and feedback of all forms (especially those that seem unpalatable) help us, as a nation, to steer the right course, away from potential calamities.

Let us heed the message, NOT shoot the messenger!

Dr. Huang Shoou Chyuan

Readymade said...

What's particularly interesting in this case is that the incident made it to Boing Boing and Slashdot. I think the ones who emailed the articles were Singaporeans, and the choice of these two sites are interesting.

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It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government.