Wednesday, September 13, 2006

LIGHT TOUCH?

I've launched a new blog (linked above) that aims to provide a comprehensive database of Singapore government interventions in internet communication. The government introduced internet content regulations in 1996, assuring internet users that these would be implemented with a 'light touch'. Ten years on, it is useful to take stock of what the government’s position has meant in practice.

The immediate, practical benefit of this database is that it helps to shed light on Singapore’s regulatory terrain. Many internet users either ignore real political risks or exaggerate them. Both pitfalls are equally unhealthy for the development of an active and mature online community.

The database is a work in progress. I am making it public as a way to tap the inside knowledge of the online community. I welcome readers’ input, either to add to existing case files, or to share any personal experiences that may not have been reported in the mass media.

13 comments:

Sgmediawatch said...

Hi Cherian,

The Singapore Media Watch has written a commentary on this topic. Do share with us your invaluable insight.

You can read the rest of this article at:

http://www.mediawatchsg.blogspot.com



Citizen journalism or internet conquest by SPH?

"Youthlink", "STOMP", "Citizen journalism" and now "Singapore Seen". The traditional no-nonsense print media in Singapore was galvanized lately by a string of ground-breaking new features that surprised even its detractors.

It appears that the bigwits in SPH (Singapore Press Holdings) are eager and all too yearning to embrace the new media in order to reach out to the young, a generation that is increasingly falling out of the gambit of the mainstream media in favor of a new media dominated by online news, blogs and forums.

In today's IT age where a blog can be created within a minute with no cost at anywhere in the world, anybody can publish anything on the web for public viewing by an international audience.
Journalism, which used to be a profession belonging to a priviledged few and controlled by a major political or commercial entity, suddenly found its monopoly on information being fast eroded by these up and coming new players in the market.

In Singapore where the sole print media, SPH, has intricate links with the ruling party (the current Chairman of SPH is Mr Tony Tan, a former deputy Prime minister and member of the PAP), this "strategic" move to reach out to the new media harbors vested political interests to streamline and manage the vast flow and exchange of information available on the internet.

It is not surprising that the love affair with the new media began only this year and gathered pace especially after the General Election in May 2006 which had sent strong signals to the authorities of the potential and danger posed by the new media.


Citizen journalism in GE 2006

1. The recent Singapore General Elections in 2006 had been a watershed in the emergence and advent of true citizen journalism in Singapore. Blogs covering the election such as the Singapore Election Watch, SG rallies, Littlespeck, Mr Brown and Yawning bread were popular and widely read by Singapore's netizens who are hungry for alternative views other than those reported in the local media.

2. The pro-government stance of the mainstream media and the lack of coverage of the opposition parties' rallies has led to many ordinary citizens turning to the new media for more balanced and objective news. Photos of the ruling party's rallies were splashed all over on the front page of the Straits Times while not a single page was allocated for photos of the Workers' Party's rallies which attracted a far bigger turnout. The huge discrepancy between what was reported and the actual reality itself led to many disgruntled citizens making their own efforts to take and post pictures of WP's rallies on the internet which further damages the credibility of local media.

3. In past elections, political discussion and debates are largely limited to public rallies and the media with little participation from citizens. This election has generated a tremendous interest never seen before in the populace with blogs and forums brimming with high traffic flow. With no restriction on speech, any issue can be discussed about openly under the sun by everybody. The print media has lost its unique role as the indisputable source and moderator of information in the public domain.


Awakening to a new threat posted by the new media

It has not taken long for the government to realize the impending threat posed by the new media to its stranglehold on information control and dissemination. During a post-mortem on the General Election organized by the NUSS (National University of Singapore Society), one of the speakers, Ms Denise Lim, a PAP MP, remarked at the need to "manage" the internet by the government after being taken surprised by the prevalence of"anti-establishment" sentiments commonly seen on the internet.

Shortly after the election, Mr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts commented in an interview that the government will adopt a "light touch" on the internet. So far, no bloggers or forumers have hauled up in courts for making defamatory remarks on the political leaders and system in Singapore.

Rather than confronting and ostracizing the new media using its usual hardball tactics, the government has been "magnaminous" in extending a warm welcome to a potential rival with the ignoble aim of subduing and incorporating it gradually into its dominion.

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