Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gagging haggling tagging

Gagging Freedom - much has changed with the news media organisations in Singapore, which is dominated by SPH and Mediacorp. SPH owns has the largest print publications on the island, with the Straits Times as its anchor paper. Mediacorp owns the free Today tabloid and the broadcast media, including Channel News Asia. In spite of the growth in the news media in the past few years, one thing remains the same - no news article can be critical of the Singapore government, after discounting those that it sanctions.

It is said that Singaporeans are becoming more discerning, and are increasingly unwilling to accept this status quo. Because of the mr brown case, some Singaporeans have even gone so far as to boycott the Today newspaper, nevermind that it is free of charge. But can the news and people's views ever be denied to Singaporeans? The simple answer to that is: 'No'.

I make Yahoo my homepage, and through My Yahoo and RSS, I can and am pulling a lot of specific news sources into my custom pages in My Yahoo. One of those categories I have is about Singapore. Everyday, I review these pages and lo and behold, I find news articles from Yahoo Singapore and some foreign media publishing sometimes probing news stories about Singapore. Some of these articles may never pass muster in the Singapore Press, but they are freely and readily available to any Singaporean who has an Internet connection. So why does the government still gag the local media? It is not as if by doing so, it stanches the tide of critical commentary. If nothing, it increases it from offshore news sources, many of which appear on the internet. Mr Lee Boon Yang says the government is not too concerned about blogs as it considers them as chatter, but surely, they cannot ignore the internet-based foreign press? The fact is that the government cannot shut anyone of them down.

An internet generation - the i-generation, is growing up in Singapore, thanks to the government's strong push for all its children to become computer literate, and indeed, internet-savvy, before they leave school. Gagging the local media will no longer do, because when people's appetite for news stories that are not coated with sugary flavours cannot be satisfied locally, the internet is just a click away. Surely the Singapore government should know that its restrictive press policies, as right as it may sound, is an exercise in futility?

Instead of 'keeping people in line', it is driving more people to hate the government's way of filtering news. Ultimately, and logically, the opposition will grow, but this time, the opposition must thank the government for lending them such a big and helpful hand.

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