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Singapore Paper Yanks Blogger Critique of Gov't 46

Hou writes "mr brown — aka Lee Kin Mun, Singapore's most famous blogger, has been writing a weekly column for a local Singaporean newspaper called 'Today.' Recently, one of his columns was more critical than the powers-that-rule liked, which was a satire on the increasing costs of living in Singapore. They issued a statement through the press secretary for the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts, and sternly chastised Mr. Brown for having expressed anti-government views. Not surprisingly, a few days later, Mr. Brown posted a notice saying that his column had been suspended by Today. " (More below.)
"Here's a snip from the government representative's statement:
It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government. (...) If a columnist presents himself as a non-political observer, while exploiting his access to the mass media to undermine the government's standing with the electorate, then he is no longer a constructive critic, but a partisan player in politics.
Link to post on mr brown's blog, and the report from Reporters Without Borders. More blog entries can be found from fellow outraged bloggers here."
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Singapore Paper Yanks Blogger Critique of Gov't

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  • Hmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @10:25AM (#15667272) Homepage
    Cost of watching World Cup is up. Price of electricity is up. Comfort's taxi fares are going up.

    Isn't that called inflation [wikipedia.org]?
    • Re:Hmmm (Score:2, Informative)

      by KingEomer ( 795285 )
      Yes it is. However, it is usually possible to keep inflation to a minimum via fiscal and economic policy. Notice the Canadian and American governments' raising of interest rates in the past few years. They are cooling off the economy to try and a keep a lid on inflation.
      • One can also 'reduce' inflation by fscking with they numbers. Kind of like leaving food/energy out of the most common US inflation numbers.

  • This is news how? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 06, 2006 @10:26AM (#15667275)
    Singapore is a very nice country (I've lived there), but really, to call it a democracy is a farce. It's authoritarian rule. There's just enough "democratic hooks" that get everyone thinking it's a free country, when it really isn't. (If you remember Malaysia where the leader of the opposition party was arrested on some trumped up homosexuality charges that really weren't proven, just he ended up jailed anyhow because the ruling party felt threatened in the opposition's rise).

    It's just the government is a far more subtle about what they do, but yes, all media is censored (TV, movies, newspapers, Internet (you have to use their proxy servers - no fake TCP RST's here)). When you visit, take note. From the looks of it, it looks a lot like any western country - well run, good order, clean streets, fairly affluent. You just don't notice that the government has a lot of control in many areas. (It's a bit of the "let foreigners pour money into this country, but don't let them dare infect our 'culture'" - there's a lot of anti-foreigner bias in Singapore, though you'll have a very hard time getting someone to admit it). China's worse, yes, but they're not as subtle about it. If the ruling party of Singapore feels threatened by what you write, well, expect to disappear. This guy got off lucky by only having his column cancelled (so far).
    • Re:This is news how? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      i would disagree about the part on people disappearing. PAP (the governing party) has a tendency to sue people for defamation. Also, they get discredited in the local media (since local media is controlled by the PAP). Alternative views on singapore politics can be found from this blog: http://singabloodypore.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
    • "From the looks of it, it looks a lot like any western country - well run, good order, clean streets,..."

      That's the first sign that something is amiss.

      "If the ruling party of Singapore feels threatened by what you write, well, expect to disappear."

      And, we have confirmation.
    • by nursegirl ( 914509 ) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @11:10AM (#15667614) Journal
      I remember that when I was in Singapore a few years ago, the national media there was full of articles talking about how their students had shown high ratings in maths and sciences, but low ratings in things related to creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship . The advantage of a culture of control is that Singapore is clean, organized and a great place to head the Pacific region branches of multinationals. The problem is that innovation and growth will always come from elsewhere.

      Innovation, lack of strict governmental control, and freedom to think differently are intimately connected.
    • A friend of mine, currently studying in the United States, faced a similar situation [rsf.org] for criticizing some funding program of Singapore's science agency. Philip Yeo, the head of Singapore's science agency, threatened sue my friend into submission and forced him to post a pre-written 'apology' on his blog. Not only that, but Mr. Yeo has continued to harass my friend even after the apology was posted, by sending him crazy, childish emails. This is how it appears to work in Singapore. Idiot arrogant bureaucrats
  • by IAmTheDave ( 746256 ) <basenamedave-sd@yahoo. c o m> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @10:39AM (#15667358) Homepage Journal
    Well thank God I live in the United States!
  • by Twixter ( 662877 )
    The government also issued the following statment:

    "It is also not the place of the newspapers or media to abuse their position to take support, or take aggressive and critical stanaces that will undermine confidance of local or community busineses, forgien governments, or celebrities. As such, we will be changing the name of Newspapers to the more appropriate name Blankpaper. You'll be able to by this blank paper at any store and write whatever you want on it as long as you don't show it to anyone else.

  • You can't have a Democracy without free speech, because even if everyone votes against it there's always the possibility that they could change their minds - in which case, they would need it in order to get it back.

    I hope I didn't confuse too many people just now.
  • News to me, but apparently, you can now get in deep legal poo in the U.S. for speaking "contemptuously of the president" [nwsource.com]
    • The rules change when you join the military - which, by the way, is entirely voluntary.
    • I just want to point out that the guy in question was a military officer. He's a got a different set of rules to follow than civilians. Put the president of the context of "commanding officer", and it's fairly sensible to not allow contempuous talk - bad for discipline!

      Besides, let's face it: that's only a tack-on to his real offense, which was refusing to go to Iraq.

      -Erwos
    • The rules of conduct for a serving officer of a countries military are different than those of an ordinary citizen.

      According to the link you posted the US government seems to be behaving very reasonably. Despite vocal opposition to the war, and his refusal to go to Iraq he is still permitted to go home at night while they investigate.
    • There's a nuance here you may not grasp. Mr. Watada is an US Army officer; the President is in his Chain of Command (specifically, at the very top of it). Speaking ill of one's superiors in public is insubordination. AFAIK, members of the armed forces do not have the same 1st (and possibly 4th and 5th) amendments rights as the rest of us. What Mr. Watada did was criminal.

      Full disclosure: I'm an Army brat married to an Air Force brat. My father was an Air Force brat. Two of his brothers went Army; one went

  • The media has greater access than a normal person so they must be a-political. If you dare criticize the government, it is political because that is the only type of problems that a government has. Noone in the government would put their self-interest before public needs!

    Take that Mr. Brown!

  • I have to be honest, the paper's response was *spot* on. It was not, as the slashdot summary made it seem to be, a political retraction. It was a specific commentary describing what the blogger's article did wrong and why. Not only that, it addressed every point of sarcasm that the blogger presented in his article, and did such with reason.

    I don't claim to say that this makes the Singapore government a different beast (how did we start talking about the govt anyhow?), but I do care to say that it ch
    • Well to me, the blogger's article might come across as rather satirical but it does not appear at to be ill worded or lunatic. You can read the whole article here: http://www.todayonline.com/articles/127762.asp# [todayonline.com] http://www.todayonline.com/articles/127762.asp# [todayonline.com]

      By mr brown,

      THINGS are certainly looking up for Singapore again. Up, up, and away.

      Household incomes are up, I read. Sure, the bottom third of our country is actually seeing their incomes (or as one newspaper called it, "wages") shrink, but the

    • mr brown is entitled to his views. But opinions which are widely circulated in a regular column in a serious newspaper should meet higher standards. Instead of a diatribe mr brown should offer constructive criticism and alternatives. And he should come out from behind his pseudonym to defend his views openly.

      Gee, I wonder why the man would insist on anonymity...

      It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government.

      On the other hand,

  • by Distinguished Hero ( 618385 ) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @01:11PM (#15668804) Homepage
    Many people actually believe that Singapore is the model 21st century state. There exists within Western Europe and Canada a very strong movement to shift those countries toward the Singapore model. Many Western European states, Canada and Australia already have state operated media monopolies, and many of the aforementioned states also have ruling parties which have a tendency to hold on to power for the majority of the time (e.g. Canada). Furthermore, in many states such as Belgium, the judiciary (appointed by the the ruling party, more often than not) has the ability to (and does) declare parties (e.g. the most popular party in the Dutch portion of Belgium -- Flanders) illegal. In addition, Free Speech is not considered absolute in any of these countries, with the majority of the population accepting that "limits" exist to "free speech," and the ruling parties having recently introduced legislation further cementing this stance (e.g. in the UK); these limits are indeed often enforced by the judiciary in many of these countries.

    Incidentally, Singapore has undergone a very rapid demographic shift. The once majority population has, within less than three generation, been replaced primarily by Chinese immigrants who now make up 76.8% [wikipedia.org] of Singapore's population. Aside from this, Singapore is considered one of the most diverse and multi-cultural places on Earth (supporting link [wikipedia.org]). To enforce this utopian vision, and ensure harmony, freedom of speech has been restricted, in a manner similar to that of Western European states and Canada; from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]: "Laws restricting the freedom of speech are justified by claims that they are intended to prohibit speech that may breed ill will or cause disharmony within Singapore's multiracial, multi-religious society. For example, in September 2005, three bloggers were convicted of sedition for posting racist remarks targeting minorities.[5]." Once people accept that freedom of speech has "limits," perhaps the remaining portions of the Singaporean model flow naturally.
    • You're spot on about free speech not being considered an absolute. This is perhaps best exemplified by Bush's infamous curse, "there ought to be limits on freedom". The last several years have demonstrated the US government's general hostility to the free press and free speech. In fact, a constitutional amendment prohibiting certain kinds of free speech failed in the Senate by only one vote! I'd say that the USA is today more hostile to free speech than most of Western Europe and Canada, but maybe that's be
    • To enforce this utopian vision, and ensure harmony, freedom of speech has been restricted, in a manner similar to that of Western European states and Canada.

      Oh, bullpucky. The level of censorship in Singapore [wikipedia.org] far exceeds that of any Western European state. Every newspaper, every radio station, every TV channel is controlled by the government. Now that mr brown has been cast out into the cold by the govn't, nobody else will ever publish his writings.

      Also, the much-repeated "multicultural in harmony"

    • "Canada and Australia already have state operated media monopolies"
      Could you tell us more about these, when I was recently in Australia they seemed to have a large and varied range of media outlets, newspapers, magazines, commercial TV etc.
      I was unaware they are run by the state.
  • It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government. (...) If a columnist presents himself as a non-political observer, while exploiting his access to the mass media to undermine the government's standing with the electorate, then he is no longer a constructive critic, but a partisan player in politics.

    It is scary how closely the Singaporean government's words mirror those of the Australian government when it was justifying withdrawi

  • Here's a geek-friendly detailed mathematical analysis of the raw numbers that prompted the column and the ensuing bitchslap:

    Income inequality widens markedly [yawningbread.org]

    Note that 10% of Singaporean households now have no income (at all) and the next decile has seen its average earnings drop 20% in the past 5 years, while the rich get richer.

    Cheers,
    -j.

    • I've read a year ago same article about Great Britain. Makes sense if you think a bit... the more money you have the more opportunities you have to earn more. Be it education, investments or just living near the place of work, upper and middle classes have the advantage. Moral of the story? Try to be above the demarcation line, not below.
      Oh, and in that article it said the "poor" stayed the same. No sign of getting poorer, just most of the "new money" went to the richer.

      • Oh, and in that article it said the "poor" stayed the same. No sign of getting poorer, just most of the "new money" went to the richer.

        Hmm? Look at the data -- the percentage of people with no income has increased, and the average income of the poorest families has decreased in absolute terms, which means they did even worse in inflation-adjusted real terms.

        Cheers,
        -j.

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