Monday, July 10, 2006

News in the dock

Censorship -, there was a strong rebuttal to mr brown's regualar Friday opinion column published on 30th June 2006 in the Today newspaper. The rebuttal came out the following Monday, on the 3rd of July 2006. This rebuttal, from non other than the Press Secretary to the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, refutes some of mr brown's opinions about Singaporeans being 'fed up with Progress'. In his inimical way, mr brown took a cynical look at how the people in Singapore could be poorer in spite of the generous monetary gifts from the government of the past year. Then, on the following Friday, 7 July 2006, I noticed that Today did not carry mr brown's column. I thought maybe mr brown, aka Mr Lee Kin Mun, must be on a mid-year vacation with his family, like what many Singaporeans do nowadays, including myself, so he didn't write a column for that week.

Today, I read on Yahoo News, dated Sunday, 9 July 2006, the following:

Supporters of a Singaporean blogger have gathered at a busy subway station for a silent protest at the suspension of his weekly newspaper column after the government criticised his latest satirical piece about high living costs.

That weekly column is mr brown's column in the Today newspaper. In this same report, Mediacorp, the publisher of Today, has confirmed that it has suspended mr brown's column, but did not offer any reason for doing so, preferring to leave people to speculate on the likely reason.

Putting 2 and 2 together (although I admit that I have flunked my Maths before), this is what I speculate to be the case:

  1. mr brown first ruffles some official feathers through his Bak Chor Mee podcast
  2. mr brown then irritates some officials through his cynical piece on progress in Singapore
  3. Some government official rebutes those opinion in the same media
  4. The publisher develops cold feet and/or caves-in to stakeholder interests and pulls its most popular column off the printing presses (Did somebody add more ice to the cold feet?). Sounds awfully familiar when SPH ruled the print media.

At the end of the day, although we are dealing with the news media here, NOBODY is the wiser as to what really happened. Well, so much for press freedom and integrity in Singapore. Which is why any award that the local press media receives must be no more than an exercise in flattery. What else can there be?

So I am right after all. Mr Lee, aka mr brown, is on vacation, though when he will return (to Today), if ever, is not certain. But I am sure that other publications will gladly take up his column where he left off - so long as it is not printed in Singapore. His loyal and appreciative readers will still flock to his humourous musings of life in Singapore.

p.s. Contrary to what the Press Secretary writes in her rebuttal to mr brown's column last week, mr brown is not hiding behind an anonymous name. mr brown is just his pen name. I would venture to say that practically the entire newspaper reading public in Singapore and everyone else wired to the internet gossip circuit knows that mr brown is a Singaporean by the name of Lee Kin Mun. His picture is also readily available from the internet. He maintains a very public blog, complete with pictures and all, at From what I have heard, mr brown has also been invited to some government schools to give talks. Surely, the Press Secretary can know all about this man with the resources at her disposal?

Either the Press Secretary is not reading the newspapers, or she thinks that Singaporeans are not well informed and cannot judge for themselves what is right or wrong or what is in-between. That's really the problem, isn't it?

p.p.s. So who is epilogos? After this incident, he/she has no wish to reveal himself/herself. Anonymity is preferred. This is how it will continue to be in Singapore. It is so sad. Call me a coward, but be honest yourself to say that there is not some morsel of truth in what is written everyday by Singapore bloggers about life in Singapore.

See also:
Dr Balakrishnan's take on the issue
Inter Press Service News Agency Joins in the debate

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