Mainstream media takes the low road 

To win this tussle, netizens must firstly recognize that with free speech comes responsibility 

Ng E-Jay,

Last week, the Straits Times published a profile of 7 prominent bloggers, together with remarks on the websites they operate and recent clashes with the establishment or authorities. Suffice it to say that not all of it was flattering. In addition, the Straits Times also published a check-list to supposedly assist the reader sort out fact and fiction online.

The latest salvo at the blogging community comes in the wake of mounting attacks on the character and behaviour of some bloggers. In battling for the hearts and minds of the average Singaporean, the mainstream media has taken the low road. This should not be the case.



The recent tussle between mainstream and alternative media hides important historical facts. The mainstream media has conveniently forgotten that there was a time in the not-too-distant past when people like Ms Catherine Lim who spoke up on political issues were asked to join a political party before they could express their views. Such was the climate of fear that even conversations in neighbourhood coffeeshops took on hush tones when the subject turned to political issues.

Websites and organizations like Think Centre were gazetted as political organizations and had their activities curtailed and monitored. It was only after the first full-fledged socio-political blogs like Yawning Bread came into being that political discourse gradually seeped into Singapore’s online community.

The mainstream media has conveniently forgotten how long it took for the government to reluctantly begin opening up — and even then, recent actions by those in political office suggest that old-school authoritarianism must be slowly making a come-back.

Till today, films like One Nation Under Lee and certain films produced by high-profile film-maker Martyn See remain banned by the Media Development Authority (MDA). Even a simple speech given by the late Dr Lim Hock Siew after two decades of silence was swiftly banned, as if the government so deeply fears the words spoke by an old gentleman.

This is the asymmetry of power that exists between the establishment-cum-mainstream press, and alternative voices online. In taking the low road against bloggers, the Straits Times has forgotten about this deep asymmetry and how it deeply affects the relationship between the online community and the establishment/political elite.

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