a community of singaporeans

Self-regulation of Singapore Blogosphere- Whatever for??

Posted by theonlinecitizen on December 18, 2006

internet1.jpgBy Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Dear Friends,

Although I have great admiration for people like Yadav, Bernard Leong, Aaron and Gerald, I must come out to confess that I am totally against the idea of self-regulation to our blogosphere.

The blogosphere as we know it now, is the last bastion of truly free expression.

What was there before there was blog?

What did we have before the internet gave all of us this precious gift?

Granted, the MSM-MainStream Media (or their masters) have loosened their grip and are allowing more divergent views to be published in their forum pages. But the MSM is still firmly and totally controlled by the government.

The views of the government on the functions of the media are well known. When push come to shove, one of the government leaders would invariably mouth something like,” We will not let the editors/journalists/media etc… set the agenda”-ad nauseum.

Our MSM ain’t no Fourth Estate

The MSM in Singapore is never going to be the “Fourth Estate” as is the case in the western democracies.

The “Fourth Estate’s” coinage has been attributed to Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797), a British politician. It comes from a quote in Thomas Carlyle’s book, “Heros and Hero Worship in History” (1841).

“Burke said that there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

The three estates in the above quote referred to the British parliament,( the Lords Temporal, the Lords Spiritual and the Commons). The Lords Temporal and the Lords Spiritual combined being The House of Lords, the upper House of parliament. And the Commons is The House of Commons or the British lower House.

Singapore’s MSM is not there to be a watchdog; a check and balance of the government’s abuse of power. If Woodward and Bernstein were journalists in Singapore, they would not be heroes. Very likely, they would have been detained under the Internal Security’s Act if they had tried to publish details of the happenings at the Watergate hotel on that fateful day in June 1972.

We have the Speaker’s Corner, I hear you say. You have to register at the police station next to Hong Lim Square and you also cannot use any form of amplification!

If you try a “Chee Soon Juan” and as much as walk together in larger than a group of four’s, you will share the same fate and ignominy as him. I do admire CSJ’s guts.

That leaves us precious little left.

We can just take it ( like most Singaporeans have done in the past) or leave it ( as many more have done in the present).

Or we can blog…

The “gahmen” has seemingly turned a blind eye to Singapore’s nascent blogosphere. The IDA or the police may actually visit to read the contents ( they do, I assure you) but unless one is so stupid as to write defamatory stuff about certain families and characters, or worse incite racial or religious hatred ( which I am vehemently against-incitement of hatred that is), then for godknowswhatreason, they have let us be.

Perhaps they want us to let off some steam (words in cyberspace are infinitely better than a revolution downtown) , or maybe they want to know what these “radical intellectual-types” actually feel? or maybe they are really closet liberals waiting to come out (ok just joking). I don’t know and I don’t care.

So why oh why?

We have the freedom now. So, why do we want to self-regulate? Have we been so used to being a subjugated people that when freedom has been thrust upon us, we tell them, “No, please we don’t deserve freedom” ( Xenoboy talk the most sense of us all here).

History repeating itself?

Back in the early days of Singapore’s internet, we had soc.culture.singapore which was a newsgroup.It was like the present Sammyboy’s internet forum.

When some (intellectual-types) advocated that we self-regulate ( or they called it “moderation”) I was adamantly opposed to it.

I was amongst a minority who voiced out vociferously against this. However,the majority went ahead to form “moderated.soc.culture.singapore”.

You guessed it. It died a quick death. Uncelebrated-no funeral.

None of you even knew such a newsgroup existed. You know whatimean?

So, I say what I said then, “NO!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan


Visit Dr Huang’s blog here.


6 Responses to “Self-regulation of Singapore Blogosphere- Whatever for??”

  1. The_Latest_H said

    The thing is this: do we want the government to set the agenda, and allow them to walk over us- as they always do- or do we want to be bold and speak up?

    The fact remains that we cannot remain red carpets for them to thread us upon. As citizens of this country, we should have every right in voicing our concerns on where this country is heading. Its not a privilege granted only to the top people in this government.

    Its an entitlement.

    Now even as the government tries to impose its will on the online community, and force some people to “moderate” their own views, the more the larger community show that they ain’t pushovers.

    In the US, in the recent November Senate/Congressional and gubernational(sp) elections, the Republicans and even the Democrats were up for intense checks. They were all YouTubed in a sense; caught in videos and re-played to massive audiences until these politicians were so ashamed. One only had to look at now ex-Senator George Allen, who lost his Senate seat to Jim Webb in a tight election because of the fallout that arose when Senator Allen called an American-born Indian(a real Indian, not a native American) a macaca. It was captured on video by that Indian himself- and uploaded onto YouTube. The rest…well we know the rest.

    So this example points out how Net 2.0 has democratise the political landscape and the journalist landscape in the US. Its power to the people, again- and that’s why the PAP fears this. It has had always feared that when people have power, they lose. To try and clamp down on free speech online is a manifestion of that fear.

    That’s why we have to maintain free speech and freedom from fear online. If people in the US can use YouTube to check on their politicians, then in time, here in Singapore, we should do the same. Regardless whether the PAP likes it or not.

  2. Dr.Huang said

    Hi The_Latest_H,

    My sentiments exactly.
    It is not just about the PAP. We should speak freely from the heart without fear or favour.
    Whether the PAP or the Monster-raving loony Party is in power, we should not hold back.
    Self-regulation does no one any good. Not even the PAP. They will think everything is hunkydorry when it ain’t.

    I have pasted your comments onto my blog comments section as there is an active thread already

  3. The_Latest_H said

    Well, cheers. Thanks Doctor.

    In any case, the PAP wouldn’t change because most of the leaders there, and the most senior one(you know whom I speak of) have all their heads in the sand; they are not coming out anytime soon.

    So, even if they don’t change, it doesn’t mean we don’t change either. We have to change; there isn’t much of a choice.

    But even as we want to start the change, we also have to persuade people on why change is needed, and why it’s important. At least if we can persuade, and listen to people, its a marked difference from the PAP, who usually change policies almost suddenly, and without consultation.

  4. Dr.Huang said

    Hi The Latest H,
    The PAP is changing ( or they are so good that they give the illusion that they are).
    It seems so obvious to people like you and I, that things cannot and should not go on the same way it has.
    The people have been dulled into a stupor and have lost ( or never learnt) the ability to initiate change.
    We are the most docile people in the Universe. With 4 million people, you would think that we would have more than 1 opinion. Wrong!

  5. Jewel Jade said

    Totally against any form of regualtions, whether self or external interference by govt or interest groups. This last bit of total freedom of expression derived from the Internet should not be taken away by hidden agendas of individuals or organisations.

  6. BL said

    Hi there,

    I have written a followup on this article to explain my position clearer on the self-regulation.

    Actually, self-regulation (or the correct word is moderation) has begun in the blogs. A code of conduct won’t change much.

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