More problems at Singapore’s mainstream media channels

One of the great ironies of modern Singapore’s media development is that even as politicians, establishment supporters and other conservatives continue to heap scorn on internet sites, the mainstream channels keep making mistakes, sometimes egregious ones. It is as if they are doing their utmost to make a mockery of their fans.

2013 proved a particularly horrible year for Singapore’s mainstream media channels, and they have started off 2014 on the same shot-riddled foot. Pointing out these errors is important not in order to have a laugh–although one can hardly blame Singapore’s beleaguered bloggers for indulging in a bit of schadenfreude.

The bigger reason is that, like so many other sacred cows of the Singapore model, media policies here are based on a seemingly immutable national orthodoxy about the role of elites: Singapore society must rely on a tiny, enlightened group of people, rather than the distributed intelligence of all Singaporeans. This belief manifests itself in everything from a government-knows-best attitude to the presumption that our restricted, elite-led mainstream media model is serving our country well. Continue reading

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#FreeMyInternet: My statement at Hong Lim Park

Dear friends, unfortunately, I was not FreeMyInternetable to be at Hong Lim Park on Saturday, June 8th, to join the protest against the silly new Internet regulations in Singapore. I have just embarked on a seven-month trip across India and China, to do research for my second book. (Click here to read about my new project.)

Andrew Loh, the organiser, asked me to send him a short 200-word statement for him to read out. Thanks Andrew, appreciate it.

Here is the statement:

Dear friends, whatever our political beliefs, we should collectively oppose this regulation. Nobody should tell you what news is good and what is bad. That is for you to decide.

Some people will say, “Nevermind, it’s only 10 websites.” But that’s only the beginning. You give one inch, eventually they take one mile. Never let the authorities believe that they are more enlightened than you.

This new ruling will feed self censorship in Singapore—definitely in all those 10 websites, but also amongst other online writers.

Self censorship is a terrible thing. It infects a writer slowly, subconsciously. All of us in Singapore are affected by self censorship. It prevents us from having a richer, fuller dialogue.

Although we disagree with something someone is saying online, we should fight for that person’s right to say it.

Even if you trust the current government and the current MDA to do the right thing, do you trust tomorrow’s government? Do you trust tomorrow’s MDA?

You may hold the majority opinion now, but one day you might be in the minority. When that day comes, you will be thankful that we have a Free Internet for you to speak your mind.