5 Jul 2006


Reporters Without Borders / Internet Freedom desk



It is not the job of government officials to take a position on newspaper articles or blog posts unless they are clearly illegal, Reporters Without Borders pointed out today after the Singaporean newspaper Today published an opinion piece by an official on 3 July condemning a recent post by blogger Lee Kin Mun as over-politicised and unconstructive.

"This reaction from a Singaporean official is disturbing," the press freedom organisation said. "It reads like a warning to all journalists and bloggers in a country in which the media are already strictly controlled. The media have a right to criticise the government's actions and express political views. Furthermore, a newspaper's editorial policies depend solely on its editors. They should under no circumstances be subject to instructions issued by the government."

Lee, who uses the pseudonym "mr brown," wrote an article entitled "S'poreans are fed, up with progress!" for Today's opinion pages on 30 June in which he criticised recent government measures and the constant cost-of-living rises in an amusing and acerbic fashion.

Krishnasamy Bhavani, a press secretary to the ministry of information, communications and arts, responded with an article published in Today on 3 July in which she defended her government's policies but went on to criticise Lee for taking a political position.

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

Lee is one of Singapore's most popular bloggers. When the government banned political podcasts during the recent elections in April, the media largely took its cue from Lee's position that, "Prison got no broadband," in which he seemed to discourage bloggers from violating the new rules. But he nonetheless tested the authorities himself by posting a series of "persistently non-political podcasts" on his blog.

Reporters Without Borders was not able to reach Lee for a comment.

Related Issue

Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents

Blogs get people excited. Or else they disturb and worry them. Some people distrust them. Others see them as the vanguard of a new information revolution. Because they allow and encourage ordinary people to speak up, they’re tremendous tools of freedom of expression.

Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest.

Reporters Without Borders has produced this handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles.

Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents
Pdf, 1,6 Mo


Anonymous said...

Shocking that TODAY is not publishing any letter supporting Brownie because of this!

It's time for Singaporeans to take action. Let's start
(1) Online petition
(2) Email the MICA to complain, CC it to the Prime Minister and to Amnesty International
(4) Make sure the Alternative Media keeps talking about this so that the mainstream media cannot ignore us!

Dear [ ]

Thank you for your feedback. We will not be publishing any correspondence on this issue. Shoud you feel strongly, you may want to wish to redirect your views to the source of the letter.

With regards.

[ ]
editorial assistant
did: [ ]
fax: 6534 4217
news desk: 6236 4888
email: [ ]@newstoday.com.sg

clyde said...

It's a case of the "unconstructive" article being condemned by the even more unconstructive article. Thank you Bhavani for reiterating how useless the media is at presenting alternative political views and freedom of expression. Bloggers 1 Mediacorp NIL. Woohoo!

Matilah_Singapura said...

Any fool can form an opinion and make a judgement. People who think that all of their comments are worthy of praise display 'neediness'—a need to be 'validated', such that if they are criticised, all of a sudden it becomes 'unfair'.

Since when was this universe 'fair'? any kind of comment that is remotely political and 'against the grain' of the ruling party is bound to attract a reaction.

Why all the cry-baby hoo hah? Just ignore the response from the apparatchiks. Why even expect to be 'validated' with a 'favourable response'? These guys have ALL THE POWER—they can say what they like and do as they please!

Changing the public 'meme' is a long, slow process. The govt will do whatever it can (get away with) to stop dissidents and opinion which goes against the state and its plans for social engineering.

But this 'social engineering' has given the majority of people a (false??) sense of 'success'. It is unlikely that the majority of rationally ignorant individuals will be willing to rock the boat in any significant way—at least in the short to medium term.

My contention has always been that the country will implode and be the floating turd of the South China Sea...it is the nature of this spontaneous order to eventually destroy itself.

Thank God for natural law :-)

Anonymous said...

If singapore hit really hard times through lack of reasonable management, the heatlanders would desert the island like rats leaving a sinking ship. They would sell off their apartments and move whatever moneys they had left quicker than the blink of an eye.

Remember there is no loyalty on this island.