Friday, April 07, 2006

Political Censorship

Bloggers muzzled in Singapore elections

Government prefers 'orderly debate' to 'online chaos'

Simon Burns in Taipei, 04 Apr 2006

Politically themed podcasts will be temporarily banned during forthcoming elections in Singapore, a government minister said yesterday.

Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Singapore's information and communications minister, argued that free-for-all debate could "confuse and mislead the public" and insisted that politically themed blogs must be registered with the government.

Dr Balaji made the comments to clarify existing regulations in response to a question tabled by a fellow ruling party member during a parliamentary session. His comments were later posted on his ministry's website.

"In a free-for-all internet environment where there are no rules, political debates could easily degenerate into an unhealthy, unreliable and dangerous discourse flush with rumours and distortions to mislead and confuse the public, " he stated.

"Private or individual bloggers can discuss politics. However, if they persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues relating to Singapore, they are required to register with the Media Development Authority.

"During the election period, these registered persons will not be permitted to provide material online that constitutes election advertising."

Singaporean law limits the promotion of political parties and viewpoints during elections.

While Dr Balaji acknowledged that some podcasts could be "quite entertaining ", he warned that the "streaming of explicit political content by individuals during the election period is prohibited under the Election Advertising Regulations".

In addition to podcasts, Dr Balaji said that all streaming online audio and video of a political nature would not be allowed.

"We recognise that people in our society will have their diverse opinions and some will want to share their opinions. But people should not take refuge behind the anonymity of the internet to manipulate public opinion," Dr Balaji stated.

Singapore is a parliamentary democracy with a population of 4.5 million and has been dominated by the same political party for more than 40 years.

While the island's government has been lauded for providing a high standard of living despite very limited natural resources, it has been criticised, both overseas and at home, for perceived restrictions on human rights.

Government ministers occasionally sue opposition politicians and other critics for defamation.

While a date for Singapore's next parliamentary elections, due by mid-2007, has not yet been set, media reports suggest that the government is most likely to call them during the next few months.

Do you think that Malaysia will soon follow suit? If Malaysia implements a law such as Singapore's, those of us who love to comment on political issues and politicians, would have to submit to a database! Who is to say which individual's political discussion is ok and which is not? I don't see how the authorities in Singapore can police political blogs, and how they can make people register with their Media Development Authority.

I also don't see how Singaporeans who are well educated can easily be confused and misled by so called "rumours and distortions". A little heated debate is always good; the government will have to defend and clarify any of their policies to the public, unless of course if there are truths in the so called rumours, then of course the government would rather not have the people know about them!


  1. I wouldn't be surprised if the Malaysian government followed suit.

    Just last month, an MP (can't remember which one) asked in Parliament whether there are ways to control bloggers.

    I read it in The Star and NST.

    Conservative politicians so typical. So afraid of people disagreeing with them.

    I also agree with your point that if questioned, the government needs to clarify their policies and positions.

    Instead, here in Bolehland, questions are usually met with your usual "Jangan mempersoalkan"


  2. With the present leadership I would say M'sia is still in the safe zone. We are not as paranoid as the Singapore Government. The most you will see is that gets intimidated once in a while or bullied by the authorities but that is as far it will go. If the authorities mean business they would drag Jeffooi to Kamunting (ISA). So there is a respectable 'check and balance' thing going on in Malaysia at the moment.....we are thankful for that coz we don't go overboard and shoot people in the football fields (for minor offences) like in Afghanistan those days :)

  3. Desmond, I hope it stays that way.

    Jeff Ooi's site is still tame. What about folks at Malaysiakini? How many times have they been harrassed? Their offices raided and computers seized? How about Raja Petra's Malaysia-Today?

    All I can say is that our politicians and our government fear criticisms because they do not like their positions jeopardized and their authority undermined.

    I agree with Mac, the "Jangan merpersoal" attitude is still prevalent in our gov't.

  4. Jeff Ooi? I think he is a good businessman, haha! But don't get me wrong, at least he is doing something, we just have to take it as it is. Else we could started something else, can we?

    For many, Singapore is more like a giant military base, everything is closely watched. But like a mirror everything has two sides, I guess.

    The real problem is, when you are in deep sh*t, people who are in the same position before would be intimidated to offer help and support. People tend to check their wallet and bank account first, before doing anything else. It's like a single man can travel everywhere as he likes but not a family man.

    If you ask me, Malaysia will be truely strong and advance when everyone are FRIENDS. That we make friends with other races, including those of minorities. I assume you take initiative to understand your friends, that is.

    Hmm, another naive comment from me, hehe...

  5. I don't 'friends' is the right word. You cannot force people to be friends if they don't want to.

    What needs to take place here is that people should not be grouped by races or ethnic origin .. we should all be treated equally as Malaysians, enjoying the same protection and benefits. Once racial politics is taken out of the equation, then nobody has to feel like he/she is being discriminated.

    The way things are going now certain racial groups get better treatment while others are left to feel left out and therefore feel being used and being discriminated upon; their contributions to the progress of the country not appreciated.

    I dream of the day when no one in Malaysia has to feel like he/she is a 2nd class citizen, and he/she is measured by the "content of his character" and not by his/her race.

  6. emm...all the sites that u guys mention actually. it still a small matter actually. As far as i know one of my lecturer whose who censor all the malaysia internet connection and its firewall it told before. there is actually only one things that she have to censor from all malaysia connection evry month. It is the political critics which is could cause chaos or initiated hatred among malaysia citizen and also critique over Malaysia government which is question their authority and power and responsibilities. Then all of those whose made those things need to be in ISA, if i'm not forgot since during her class i was so sleepy and at that time my jackass friend ask her about something internet censoship(my friend just want to know whether surfing xxx sites is being monitored actually)....see even you make a critique but your viewer or commentator are still small, it is just a small matter for them and they usually forget about that ...ya u know how malay do they job don't worry...


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