No politics please, we’re Singaporean
Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Image source: Channel NewsAsia
In the so-called knowledge economy, where the source of international competitive advantage is creativity of thought fuelled by the free exchange of ideas, the PAP Government in Singapore seems intent on remaining firmly ensconced in the 20th century. The latest public pronouncement on freedom of speech might easily have come out of China or North Korea rather than a country that aspires to the ‘Intelligent Island’. Speaking in the Singaporean Parliament, Balaji Sadasivan (Junior Minister for Information, Communications, and the Arts) declared on Monday that political debate on the Internet could fuel “dangerous discourse” in Singapore, warning that people who post political commentary on Web sites could face prosecution. “In a free-for-all Internet environment where there are no rules” says Balaji, “political debate could easily degenerate into an unhealthy, unreliable and dangerous discourse, flush with rumours and distortions to mislead and confuse the public.”
Apart from the insinuation that Singaporean voters cannot be trusted to make their own choices, it is a statement that is hardly conducive to the promotion of a culture in which people will be encouraged to take risks, to think outside-of-the-box, and to contribute to the free flow of ideas that are so essential for the formation of a vibrant, innovative economy.
Thanks to Before I Forget for the FT story tip off. The full story from Reuters is cut-and-pasted below.
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Political debate on the Internet could fuel “dangerous discourse” in Singapore, the government said on Monday, warning people who post political commentary on Web sites could face prosecution.
Speaking in parliament, senior minister of state Balaji Sadasivan, said anyone using the Internet to “persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues” about Singapore during election periods was breaking the law.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whose People’s Action Party has dominated politics in the city-state since independence in 1965, is widely expected to call early elections in the coming months.
“In a free-for-all Internet environment, where there are no rules, political debate could easily degenerate into an unhealthy, unreliable and dangerous discourse, flush with rumours and distortions to mislead and confuse the public,” Sadasivan said.
The tiny island-republic’s laws require political parties and individuals to register if they want to post political content on the Internet.
Print media in Singapore are tightly controlled, but the Internet is rife with Web sites that discuss Singapore politics, from the critical newsgroup sg_review to the comical www.talkingcock.com and blogs such as singabloodypore and www.yawningbread.org.
It is not clear whether any of these sites have registered with the government.
While Sadasivan said the government’s approach was to take “a light touch” in regulating the Internet, political activists have complained that the rules are too broadly defined, preventing an open debate. He said a change of the law was ruled out.
The rules also apply to “podcasting”, an increasingly popular medium through which audio files are made available for download on the Internet, allowing Web surfers to listen to them at their convenience.
Last year, opposition politician Chee Soon Juan launched a podcast on the Singapore Democratic Party’s Web site in an attempt to reach a wider audience and bypass the pro-government media.
Leave a Comment