9 Jul 2006

Supporters of suspended Singaporean blogger hold silent protest

SINGAPORE (AFP) - Supporters of a Singaporean blogger have gathered at a busy subway station for a silent protest at the suspension of his weekly newspaper column after the government criticised his latest satirical piece about high living costs.

At least 30 supporters turned up at City Hall station at 2:00 pm dressed in brown attire in support of the blogger, who goes by the moniker Mr Brown.

"I think most of us feel that it is very important to have an independent voice in the print media," said a 25-year-old man who declined to be named.

He said he was told of the planned protest via a SMS text message on Saturday evening, like many of the others.

"For them to suspend the column is ridiculous," said a 19-year-old Canadian student who only wants to be known as Bronwyn. She was at the subway station with her sister and mother to take part in the silent protest.

The 36-year-old blogger, whose real name is Lee Kin Mun, is aware of the 30-minute silent protest but friends say he is not the organiser.

"We are aware of it but we did not organise it. We are touched by the gesture and we hope that nobody gets into trouble because of us," the blogger's friend Edmund Tan told AFP.

In Singapore any public protest of at least five people without a police permit is illegal.

A few policemen patrolled the subway station but no arrests were made.

The Today newspaper's publisher MediaCorp confirmed Thursday it has suspended Mr Brown's weekly column from July 7 but gave no reason.

His latest satirical piece entitled "S'poreans are fed, up with progress!" drew a strong rebuttal from the government who said the writer was distorting the truth.

Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF or Reporters Without Borders) has described the government's condemnation of Mr Brown's column as "disturbing" in light of its already strict curbs on the media.

In April RSF condemned Singapore's restrictions on political discussions in blogs and websites ahead of general elections in May.

Last year the group ranked Singapore 140th out of 167 countries in its annual press freedom index.


Matilah_Singapura said...

Wonderful. A display of social democracy.

The next step is to boycott the big advertisers in the paper. Take the social democracy up a level to that of market democracy.

I always believe in the sanctity of private property.

Which is why a swift kick in the private property is extremely effective.

This is what sovereign consumers do all the time to 'punish' lousy producers—i.e. they cause producers to experience a loss in value of their property. This is also known as a 'market signal'.

Market democracy rocks!

antipathy said...

pics pleaze.

and why never warn us.

Anonymous said...

if people find not having Mr Brown makes Today not worth reading, they can stop taking the free handouts; if circulation drops, then advertisers would go elsewhere

20 people demo for 30 minutes can only be called a publicity stunt, and I am not sure it would get much publicity if mediacorp and sph refuse to report it

Anonymous said...

Here's the pic!


Matilah_Singapura said...

to anonymous:

Besodes boycotting the papaer, thus affecting circulation, the idea I have is to BOYCOTT the advertisers, send them a message — "we won't support you if you support a fascist paper" — so that they do go elsewhere.

The 'free' paper's profit comes entirely from advertising revenue. People like mr brown 'add value' to the paper, so that people read it, and (it is hoped) support the businesses of those who advertise in it.

So by targeting the businesses of the advertisers, you minght get them to re-evaluate their "commercial associations".

Cutting off the advertising revenue of the paper is chopping off their legs.

This is far more effective than just a protest alone—which is great and should be appreciated.

Guys, next time some warning huh? So we can have some fun too!

antipathy said...

are u suggesting we write to advertisers who advertise in today?
Hod do we get a petition going?

DO not say it is a boycott. Just say that we note with interest their continued business with the Today newspaper. Remind them what the Today newspaper has done to one of the columns due to political pressure.

Anonymous said...

I only said people who find today without mr brown no worth reading should boycott it; there are others who would continue to read it, or at least, take a free copy when offered one

Capt_Canuck said...

So it takes hurting Singaporean entertainment for Singaporeans to stand up and take notice? 'Reporters Without Borders' ranks Singapore 140 out of 167 papers for freedom of the press; the papers in Singapore routinely publish PAP glorifying articles and hides any article that might suggest Opposition greatness or the papers glorify the Oppositions blunders; even the hugely biased reporting of PAP activities as opposed to the almost non-existant mention of Opposition during the federal election a few months ago by the papers gets hardly a whimper from the public.

HOWEVER, you take away one writer who is a celebrity in Singaporean minds and all of a sudden you have silent protests, pages upon pages of people blogging outright rage for the 'ridiculous' actions of MICA? Are Singaporeans really wanting to send the message "yes, control our minds, our thoughts and our feelings through media streamlining and gov't control...but dont you DARE take away our entertainment!"

Sounds similiar to the 'bread and circus' way of Republic control of the ancient Romans under Caligula's rule if you ask me...though, no one really has asked me, so no sense in saying that, huh?

antipathy said...

cpt canuck, you good ol canadian, you,eh:

men do not give up their lives for a half pence a day and loaf of bread. It takes specific actions to spur men on, wake people up. Do you not see that is the way how all societies, all peoples work? Not by things like reports by foreign agencies.

sei-ji rakugaki said...

interesting..well done!

Matilah_Singapura said...


Forget the petition. Email the advertisers directly and tell them in no uncertain terms that you are BOYCOTTING their business, and the reason WHY—because they, by their advertising accounts with the paper, contribute to the paper's ability to exist and act as a lapdog to the state by silencing opinion.

The paper has a right to hire and fire whoever it pleases for whatever reason.

But no one has to AGREE to the reasons of the paper exercising that right.

And AFAIK, no govt can force us to buy in the free market!

Anonymous said...

i don't read today, could someone list the big sponsers that today advertises?

I know M&Ms is one.

If everyone emails them they sure notice one

This is antipathy at a different com. To lazy to put in name and password

Anonymous said...

with a media monopoly, you actually dont have much free choice

Anonymous said...

it is up to the police to identify these illetal demonstrators. they must be arrested charged and canned for their insolence, and this includes women as well

Seph said...

To above anon..
Stop paping lar. Now this is wad I call good civil disobedience. They are fighting for wad most of us believe in, or at least some of us, to have freedom in the media. Lol how else would you voice your concerns? To the 140th media? At least they don't run around with the loud hailer at prime ministers or Bhavani.

Besides, haha I don't think the govt wants to harm them in the light of IMF? oO

Anonymous said...

How convenient to blame a spokesman or spokeswoman.
They are just what the designation says. We are barking at the wrong tree and in the process showing our ignorance, I suppose.

We should do a PAP-smear test to test our sincerity (for all of us).

Anonymous said...


Excerpts from the AFP:

Supporters of a Singaporean blogger have gathered at a busy subway station for a silent protest at the suspension of his weekly newspaper column after the government criticised his latest satirical piece about high living costs.

At least 30 supporters turned up at City Hall station at 2:00 pm dressed in brown attire in support of the blogger, who goes by the moniker Mr Brown.

Unfortunately for the news wire agency, the real news wasn't that 30 people in Singapore bothered to take part in a flash mob for a proscribed blogger-columnist. I could think of several more newsworthy stories on the top of my head, such as:

How did a secret SMS-only invite leak out to the press, which turned up in battle positions and recording equipment shoved up the noses of participants, even before the flash mob was scheduled to begin?

Or how's this for a more newsworthy story:
Plainclothes police accost flash mob participants at end of event

At least 2 participants were approached Citylink mall by 4 plainclothes police operatives after the flash mob event concluded. The operatives presented themselves to the duo, requesting a "short and private discussion at a more private place".

The operatives, marshalled in a line formation, herded the two to a remote corner of the underground mall, where they proceeded to ask the following questions:
Who organised this protest?
How did you know about this protest?
What are the names of the people who informed you of this protest? What are the names of the people you informed, in turn?

And the winner: Look, we know all about this protest. You better cooperate with us and tell us the truth.

Thankfully one of the cornered persons did read up on his rights, as well as the extent of cooperation citizens are bound to give to plainclothes operatives presenting themselves without a warrant or charges, and gave them his name, his lawyer's contacts, and told them to **** off.

Several, even more newsworthy issues present themselves in the aftermath:
1. Flash mob sparks police actions by government
2. Seeing the flash mob as a bona fide protest, Wong Kan Seng, the Minister for Home Affairs, does not send in the riot police.
3. Instead, the clown show is mobilised.

Apparently there is no formal investigation, no indication that said flash mob is an illegal and destablising event, so what the MHA and Wong can do is send in the clown squad and hope that the idea of plainclothes operatives asking questions and claiming to know everything about the event... will actually scare off the participants, make them piss in their pants, and scar them for life. Remember, kids: for real protests and destabilising events, the riot police is used. When the authorities want to stage a political comedy, they send in plainclothes operatives!

But really, this flash mob was rather lame. People showed up and stood around. No silly waving, cheers, synchronised actions or what have you. No immediate and sudden dispersal. And the best part? People who didn't get the message won't get the message at all. So much for a flash mob for Mr Brown.

Don't get me started on the organiser's horrendously unironic satorical decision wear brown shirts to support a columnist who was unfairly axed. This is what you get when Singapore's artistes pose as political activists.

Ladies and gentlemen, the continuing clown show from Wong Kan Seng. As if the dropping of the police investigation against Char isn't embarrassing enough, they send in a clown show against a not-very-successful or well-planned and conceptualised flash mob.

John Riemann Soong said...

Sorry to get in a polemic argument, but I think market democracy doesn't hold very well, because it becomes plutocracy. Thus, social democracy I think doesn't need to be "taken up".

Currently we're not a social democracy though. We're as capitalist and oligarchist as the PRC, with all the bad effects of capitalism and none of its freedoms.

Though I think consumers and producers need to organise more - consumers can enforce their end of the stick.