Almost anonymous blogging.
Stay anonymous everyone as it appears to me that the government have now ropped in the willing academics in the quest to control you. On this occassion 'control via re-education'.
Some basic training could help keep them out of trouble
Tuesday • August 22, 2006
Ang Peng Hwa
IT'S official: The Government is not against blogs or bloggers and in fact may even do some podcasting of its own to get its message across. So declared Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech.
For a while now, the local blogging community has been abuzz as to whether our strict rules governing the local media would be applied to the Internet and to blogs in particular.
This concern was compounded by a recent call by a columnist to regulate blogs like newspapers. Mr Lee's statement that the Government will treat new media with a lighter regulatory hand should therefore reassure bloggers.
It is also a logical and progressive move because regulating blogs like newspapers would, literally, be like using regulations from a different century on the newest technology of our age. Besides, blogs are like websites and should be subject to the rules of websites, as the National Internet Advisory Committee has said in its annual report.
In sum, rules that apply to blogs and bloggers are sufficient for the day. Instead, blogging should be encouraged but the bloggers properly educated in the niceties of writing.
There is a lot to be said for blogging. It is done by amateurs, a word that has the same root word as "love".
Often, blogs are diaries. Few will be read beyond a small circle of netizens who can be counted on two hands. Most will not make big money or last even a year. But like mobile phones, they are something every schoolgirl and boy today aspires to have.
And in Asia — and Singapore — where speech is silver and silence golden, such aspirations of expression should be encouraged. Also, blogging contributes to a culture of writing, and writing requires a thinking and reflective mindset.
Where blogging falls down is in its very origin from amateurs. As I have said elsewhere, because bloggers are non-professionals, they are likely to stumble into the pitfalls of writing. That is, bloggers are likely to get into trouble because of the lack of training.
They are unaware of controls on freedom of expression that exist even in the United States. They seem to think the US First Amendment has been coded into the Internet.
In reality, there are rules regarding what can appear on a website and many, though not all, of these rules come from the offline world. The laws of defamation, copyright, racist expression and obscenity continue to apply, although it is true that monitoring and enforcement may be difficult.
Having seen students doing journalism, I myself have been surprised at the difference that media training makes. I have seen how even students who have been considered good writers and editors have fallen into legal pitfalls when they have not had the proper training.
The importance of training was brought home to me in a recent research project done by a colleague in the Philippines. The Philippines has one of the most free press systems in the world; but by some reckoning, it is the second most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist, second only to Iraq.
In her research, she found that 90 per cent of the journalists killed had no training in journalism whatsoever. In many of the cases, they were radio journalists who so defamed, harangued and harassed their news subjects that these people felt that they had no recourse other than violence.
Had the journalists been trained, they would probably have known to what legal limits they could go. In other words, without intending to trivialise or condone the violence, 90 per cent of the murders of journalists could have been averted with proper training.
In Singapore, the bloggers who have had trouble because of racist remarks have apparently not had any training in Singapore media laws.
The solution is some professional training for the bloggers to help them avoid trouble. At a minimum, defamatory, copyright, racist, obscene and other objectionable material, as well as OB (out of bounds) markers, are matters that need to be covered.
Training will not guarantee a trouble-free blogging existence. But from my observation and that of my Filipino researcher colleague, it should help most bloggers stay out of most difficulties most of the time.
The author is Dean of the School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University. He will be leading a half-day workshop on blogging and the law on Aug 26, to help bloggers understand the legal and political terrain. For more information, visit www.ntu.edu.sg/sci/sirc or email firstname.lastname@example.org