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."