Singapore officials, bloggers headed for showdown

alerts-button.jpgA showdown may be looming in Singaporean cyberspace, with the censure of a popular blogger sparking a rare protest in the city state, and the government insisting that the suspension of his column from a state-owned paper is merely consistent with the country’s notorious policies for managing public discourse.
The Agence France Press says supporters of Mr. Brown – whose real name is Lee Kin Mun — gathered at a busy subway station on July 9 ‘for a silent protest at the suspension of his weekly newspaper column after the government criticised his latest satirical piece about high living costs.’ There were at least 30 supporters who turned up at Singapore’s City Hall dressed in brown attire, it was reported from a country where any assembly of at least five people legally needs a police permit.
The Singapore Democratic Party has lambasted the suspension of Lee’s column from the state-owned newspaper. In a statement, the SDP said Singaporean authorities are clearly applying the country’s notoriously uncompromising and intolerant anti-speech laws on new media. ‘The wrapper may change but the package remains decidedly antiquated,’ the SDP said.
A showdown in Singapore’s cyberspace may be looming, however.
The government is defending its position that the mainstream media holds itself to a higher standard than articles posted on Internet chat rooms, reports blogger Singapore Rebel.
Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, told national and international media on July 9: ‘We are all entitled to express our opinions. But we also have to be accountable for our opinions and to be prepared from time to time to stand by them or be called to answer them and from time to time to be rebutted. So I see this as part and parcel of the consistent position which the government and people of Singapore have taken.’ He added: ‘If you feel there is a problem with cost of living, say so, let’s collectively explore solutions. But don’t in the name of humour distort or aggravate on an emotional level. That sort of discourse does not generate solutions. It generates more heat than light.’
Prior to Mr. Brown’s column getting yanked, Miss K Bhavani, the minister’s press secretary and an official of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, said ‘it is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government.’


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