May 4, 2006, 3:48 GMT at M&G News.
Singapore - The Elections Department reminded parties and individuals on Thursday to abide by the ban on political blogs and podcasts during Singapore's general election campaign with the Internet abuzz with video clips and chatter.
Developments in the blogosphere are being tracked, a spokeswoman said.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his first general election since becoming premier in August 2004, is aiming for a resounding mandate in Saturday's polls.
The People's Action Party (PAP), which has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965, is hoping to eliminate the only two opposition members in the 84-seat parliament.
Singaporeans have been going to rallies with video cameras and cellphones, and later uploading the images anonymously to popular online services.
Prior to the start of the nine-day campaign period, the government prohibited political parties from using podcasts and videocasts for campaigning.
Those with individual websites and blogs were spared outright bans, but warned against persistently promoting a party or stance. They can face a 1,000 Singapore dollar (624 US) fine or 12 months in jail, or both.
NexLabs, which has been monitoring the scene, told The Straits Times that discussion topics in blogs included defamation suits, an open society and the scandal at the National Kidney Foundation, Singapore's largest charity.
'Clearly, people have not stopped blogging and they are starting up new topics all the time,' NexLabs director Goh Kheng Wee was quoted as saying.
A check by online search engine Technorati showed that the topic 'Singapore elections' has become more popular, from 20 postings a day in February to up to 100 a day currently.
Most of the clips put up on websites such as SG Rally and Singapore Election Rally Videos focused on opposition rallies.
The online buzz is clearly offering alternative content, said Associate Professor Ang Peng Hwa, dean of the school of communication and information at the Nanyang Technological University.
'There is a sense that the mainstream media does not give enough air time to the opposition,' he said.
NexLabs' Goh said James Gomez, the Workers' Party candidate under attack by the PAP over the filing of election documents, is becoming the most talked about personality.
Local bloggers [Audio file for the mrbrown show 3 May 2006: the persistently non-political podcast no. 8. Mr Brown] have released a podcast poking fun at Gomez, who has refused to withdraw his candidacy despite repeated calls by PAP leaders to do so.
In announcing the restrictions on bloggers, the government said they were aimed at keeping discussions 'factual and objective.'
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders accused the government of placing increasing curbs on online free expression to limit the reach of the financially-strapped opposition parties.
© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur