The Culture of Fear Revisited

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has effectively tried to bring back good old school Big Brother intimidation.

Dr Balakrishnan said: “Anonymity in cyberspace is an illusion. You will remember in 2007, we prosecuted three persons under the Sedition Act because of the blogs they put up which denigrated the religion of one of our communities in Singapore.

“The reason we did that was to send the message that your words have an impact; if need be, we can identify you, and if we have to, we will be prepared to prosecute you.”

I thought that the PAP was trying its hardest to put on a smile and cuddle up with netizens with talk of light touching since 2006. My instincts that the smile is just for show is right, especially recently when there are rumours of an election coming, the PAP is discarding its image of the understanding guy tolerant of the online rants.

Certainly the Minister was talking about online hate speech but are you positive that he was not referring to anti-PAP rhetoric as well? Only a few weeks ago MICA Senior Minister of State RADM Lui Tuck Yew lambasted netizens for their lack of moral compass when a PAP MP was burnt by a madman. I took his intentions at face value as some netizens were horrendously callous actually. However, with Dr Balakrhishnan’s obvious threat of legal fire and brimstone fresh in my mind, RADM Lui was probably referring to netizens’ lack of political compass, not moral compass.

The old vs new media battle is again raging and will get even more intense. The PAP after watching the Obama social media magic and Barisan Nasional’s painful loss of a handful of states to the opposition last year, is taking stock of how to manipulate the new media to its advantage.

Government building capabilities to tap on new media at next GE

SINGAPORE : The Singapore government is set to actively engage and leverage on the new media at the next General Election due in 2012.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the government is already building up some capabilities. But he added there is still a place for traditional media to be the trusted source of information.

He was speaking exclusively to Channel NewsAsia’s chief editor Debra Soon, on the evolving media landscape, ahead of the channel’s 10th anniversary in March.

Citing the US as an example, Mr Lee noted that US President Barrack Obama’s team not only put out messages on the Web during his campaign, but also operated on the Web as a means of working together, organising and raising money.

Noting that that is the way the new generation operates, Mr Lee said it is going to happen in politics too.

Already, the Singapore government has announced initiatives to relax rules governing new media.

For example, it is actively trying to engage citizens online through portals such as REACH, the government’s feedback arm, as well as new media outlets such as Facebook.

Moving forward, Mr Lee said what is needed are young MPs who are comfortable with the new media landscape.

He said: “We are still learning. It is not easy to make this transition. It is like going from sea to land or vice versa, you are changing your medium and you need to get comfortable with it. But we are working hard at it.”

However, Mr Lee noted there will always be a role for traditional media to present trusted, unbiased and informed opinions – even if some may feel that information generated by traditional media is rather tame compared to what is out there online.

He noted that the traditional media has seen an increase in viewership and readership, despite growth of the new media.

Mr Lee said: “Well, there is a place called the Wild West and there are other places which are not so wild. And the new media – some of it are Wild West and anything goes and people can say anything they want, and tomorrow take a completely contrary view. And well, that is just the way the medium is.

“But even in the Internet, there are places which are more considered, more moderated where people put their names down and identify themselves. And there is a debate which goes on and a give and take, which is not so rambunctious but perhaps more thoughtful. That is another range.”

On the role of a news broadcaster like Channel NewsAsia, which is marking its 10th year on-air, Mr Lee said there is a need for a channel which is not wearing what he termed “Western spectacles”.

He said: “We felt there was scope for perspective from Asian eyes. Not to put over an ideology or a doctrine, but just present the facts, less the Western spectacles. And I think that is what Channel NewsAsia has tried to do and with some reasonable success.”

The challenge, said Mr Lee, is to be able to boil down information and present news neutrally out of Singapore.

So Much for the Bloggers’ Association

I don’t think it is a united we stand divided we fall argument here. This group of bloggers with aspirations did not get it right from the start. The president, Jayne Goh, the blogger at East Coast Life, seemed like an angry insecure person with little grip on reality. The association started with much pomp but then it was hilariously downhill all the way from then on, and the association rapidly imploded. She tried to be exclusive about membership, charging membership fees and even claiming that the association can represent Singapore bloggers at one point. Other group blogs like The Online Citizen, New Sintercom, Singapore Angle, Singapore Enquirer, Tomorrow, etc have never made the suicidal leap of faith to say that they represent Singapore blogs. This incident puts into perspective anything she comments in her blog from the past and also in the future. Which criticism is fueled by petty personal complaints rather than facts?

8 drop out of Bloggers Association
Tuesday • February 3, 2009
Alicia Wong
alicia@mediacorp.com.sg

LESS than a month after the Bloggers Association (Singapore) was officially formed, eight founding members have stepped down, leaving president Jayne Goh and secretary Wilfrid Wong at the helm.

The sudden departures mostly stem from the negative response to the association and personal commitments, said Ms Goh, who admitted: “There are quite a lot of disagreements as well, on the way the association is run and on my conduct.”

After Today first broke the news about the association, netizens reacted with a flurry of criticism. Some questioned the $110 registration and membership fee, others felt it did not have the legitimacy to represent the blogosphere. Ms Goh, 42, responded with comments posted on blogs and other online mediums.

“(Some) felt it was a big PR disaster. (Members) felt I should not have burst out and scolded back.

“It looked ugly because that’s not what our association is trying to portray … the president should behave as a role model. But if my members are being attacked, I should be able to protect them,” she told Today.

While not regretting her actions, Ms Goh said she would “try to restrain myself next time”.

The eight who stepped down will still be considered as ordinary members, said Ms Goh. But one former member, who declined to be named, said those who dropped out were not consulted on this.

Referring to how Ms Goh had reacted to the criticism, the blogger said: “With any committee, the leadership, respect and direction is very important.”

Former vice -president for operations, who blogs as Mr Endoh, said on his site that his decision to drop out from the association had to do with “internal issues” and work commitments, rather than flak from the blogosphere.

Blogger Paddy Tan, who was the association’s marketing director, wrote: “I don’t see it going the way it ought to be, with the original vision and direction going differently.”

He alluded to “top-downdecisions made by a few”, saying that everyone ought to have been involved in the decision-making.

According to Ms Goh, the association has some 10 volunteer bloggers who have offered to help out, such as in designing the blog template. Even so, the departure of eight committee members has slowed down the association’s progress “by one or two months”, she said.

“Our top priority now is to re-group and build a strong team … Our objectives as written in the constitution remain unchanged. It is the execution that is going to be improved this time,” wroteMr Wong on the group blog.

One lesson the association has learnt, said Ms Goh, is that instead of trying to bring together the whole blogging community, it will concentrate on “our niche” of small, independent bloggers.

“We don’t see it as a doomed association just because we started off on a shaky foundation,” she added.