06 July 2006

A Frightening Day For Journalists in Singapore

In his regular newspaper column for TODAY, Singapore humorist and well-known blogger Mr Brown wrote a funny article on the costs of living in Singapore. One working day later, the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts responded strongly and publicly accused him of "distorting the truth".

Days later, Mr Brown, a family man with three young children, was suspended from his job as a columnist for TODAY.

In my opinion, this reflects the frightening climate of fear under which media professionals in Singapore have to work.

Mr Wang will be forwarding this post to Reporters Without Borders to notify them of these unfortunate events. You can write to them too.


Side note - Mr Brown also created a humorous, popular and immensely well-circulated podcast entitled "Bak Chor Mee" two months ago. This podcast satirised a certain political event during the 2006 General Elections and placed the ruling party in a less-than-positive light. The podcast received direct attention and public commentary from the Minister for Information, Communication & The Arts. More details here.

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Anonymous said...

I thought Mr Brown worked as something else and the column is an 'extra' he does, perhaps out of interest or whatever.

But this is, as you say, scary. Like many others who have commented/written about the issue, I didn't think his article was objectionable. And what about all the pro-government articles anyway? Aren't they all 'partisan', 'for the government', etc (remember, not supposed to write 'for' OR 'against')? And, actually, there have been a few (very few) mainstream journalists who dared to write about a few non-mainstream views.

Why target Mr Brown?

Anonymous said...

It is a humour column and put it this way the issues are real and if the ruling party feels that it is not true, it can rebut in a formal letter explaining how Mr Brown is so wrong. But a letter to say that Mr Brown is wrong to write his column and then now suspension of his column. A few questions, was Today acting under the duress of certain official bodies to suspend the column or did it do so of its own free will. And does this all have to do with the famous Bak Chor Mee podcast?

pinto said...

Was Mr Brown ever considered a journalist by the MSM? Or just a blogger with a regular newspaper column?

Now that ST has STOMP, a move that is seemingly calculated at controlling - or at least centralizing - online opinion, SPH & MediaCorp (I know they are different companies, but both have stakes in Today after the 'consolidation') might feel that they can afford to cut Mr Brown loose.

Now, they can continue to vilify bloggers ad naseum, pointing to a high-profile has-been who has 'abused' the power of the press.

(Hmmm, and I thought journalists aren't supposed to campaign for or against anything. Which is why I say that we have mere reporters in Singapore.)

Media professionals shouldn't worry. They are the first to toe the line. Bloggers are the ones who should be worried.

Just a thought: If a reporter had written all that and had been warned, the sub-editor and editor who let that article be published would be in deep doo-doo too.

Jt said...

quite ashamed to be singaporean whenever things like these happened..Mr Brown was being a typical true blue singaporean when he wrote the article-complain, that is what we are quite good at, so it is really regrettable when Today took a knee jerk reaction to suspend him.It is like saying "ok, u stepped on the garmen`s toes, so we do not want to be associated with you, in case we got into trouble too"...another singaporean trait-kiasi...

ps.i wonder how long did THEY arrived at the conclusion to suspend mr brown. was there much debate on it...or was it unanimous..

Anonymous said...

The worst part is that nobody can pin this on the gov't. Not directly, anyway.

It was the decision taken by Today maangement to suspend Mr Brown and only they know whether they did it under duress.

And next time, somebody cites this as an example to a PAP politician about the climate of fear for expressing one's opinion, the reply would be, "But we are not responsible for the suspension."

This whole episode is sad but not surprising, except that the offical rebuttal by Bhavani did not include the standard line about "if you want to comment on such stuff, please join a political party".

Perhaps Mr Brown fits the profile of the type of political candidate that Mr Lee KY feels would be most likely to win an election.

Anonymous said...


National Day
Let PAP flags fly...
But some Singaporeans say opposition must be allowed to march in the parade, too. SgForums discussion.
Jul 5, 2006

Texcoco II posted,
I can't but think this way. Just look at the performance and contents, PAP party flags, videos of Lee Kuan Yew's and his PAP struggle. It's not a bad idea. LKY did good, it must be agreed that without him and the PAP Singapore will have no today.
But why no opposition parties and members invited? After all, they (also) all represent Singapore. I'm not saying PAP should not raise their standards or whatever, but I believe it can be fairer if opposition parties can display their own content, such as flags...

If you are in power, you rule it in your own way.

It would seem that National Day does not belong to the Alternative (opposition) Parties, as their Members of Parliament cannot even get a permit to conduct an OUTDOOR Constituency National Day Celeberation Dinner - on the same scale as the Ruling Party - even if the budget is available.

The MPs from the Alternative Parties are not allowed to address the schools in their Constituencies nor participate in the National Day celebrations conducted by those schools.

National Day is certainly a Propaganda Day for the Ruling Political Party.
Somehow the emphasis on such a grand occasion seems to have forgotten the sacrifices, pain, sufferings and personal contributions of the various generations of COMMON SINGAPOREANS - who have given their support to the Government - not to the Political Party - despite their personal political preferences.

After the 1959 Election - that allowed the PAP to step into the seat of Government for the first time - and with a 54.1% of the votes, controlling 43 parliamentary seats out of 51 - Singaporeans closed ranks again almost three years later, when Singaporeans gave their support to LKY and his team again in a Referendum to join Malaysia.

Most lowly-educated and uneducated Singaporeans of the early 1960s were swayed by LKY's eloquence, and did not discern the narrow differences in the choices available - without any choice to object - in a shrewdly designed Referendum; and 70% of Singaporeans gave support to LKY's call to merger, despite the alarm bells sounded by the Alternative Political Parties.

Almost two years after merger with Malaysia, and after two racial riots, Singapore was bitterly kicked out of Malaysia on 9 August 1965; the date which Singaporeans again rallied to give support to the PAP despite all their political leanings.

Singaporeans had only one goal, and that was to prove to Malaysia that we will outlast and outperform the racial politics practised in Malaysia.

After almost 40 YEARS, what is the achievements and rewards for those who gave their support to LKY and his PAP?

The generations that saw or participated in the politics of the 1950s till this day are now in their 70s and 80s.

Many are languishing in Old Folks' Homes that are run by PRIVATE Charities, churches, temples and religious councils.

After all those years of loyal support, what has LKY and the PAP done that alleviate the ever increasing medical costs to these elderly generations - most of whom have hardly any CPF, Medisave or Medishield to cover their multiple deteriorating physical and health problems?

LKY and his team will fade away with an accumulation of A MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR, while these elderly generation has to depend on their hard-pressed children to find money to pay for all the medical bills generated by the PRIVATISED government-owned hospitals.

Singapore's National Day should belong to all generations of Singaporeans.

National Day should serve as a reminder to the sacrifices, struggles, pain, and contributions made by the earlier generation, as well as.. ourselves.

National Day should allow us the opportunity to pledge ourselves to do better and more for this country, and remind outselves that this country rightfully belongs to us, and which WE should have a bigger say than the politicians.


Anonymous said...

Going back to the topic of Mr Brown's column, goodness, maybe this HAS something to do with bak chor mee (as said by the 2nd 'anonymous'). Lull Mr Brown (and other bloggers) into a false sense of security by not taking action, then catching him (and other bloggers) unawares. I say, entrapment method!!

Mr Wang, you better be careful you don't get entrapped, too. And hopefully nobody will phone the police to complain that you reported to reporters without borders. You know, nowadays, people like to complain about all kinds of things - people's blogs, people's comments on people's blogs, pictures of elephants, movies with snatch thieves, people shouting during world cup matches etc.

anyway, if it happens it wasn't me, ok?

Anonymous said...

That's why we have wayang party and wayang government.

The PAPhood puts Hollywood and Bollywood to shame!

I recommend yawningbread's read about a Korean movie (the king and the clown).

I somehow feel that they are fighting a losing battle. I could control my son, dictate what clothes to wear, what cartoons to watch and what food to eat only until he was 12. After that, he takes over in his own growing up. I can't lock him up nor can I shut off the computer forever.

And I can't stop him from talking back. I won't want to because I'll lose my son if I do so. To disagree is better than silence. At least, he sees my concerns and will hopefully alert him when he decides.

If PAP is paternalistic, at least they should learn how to parent in this modern era.

Look like they are neither good businessmen (wages keep going down for 1/3) nor good parents. Fail on both counts

But, 忠言逆耳, the prelude to the fall of any great kingdom in days yonder.

Anonymous said...

He's a columnist, not a journalist. There's a difference between the two. And he earns his living elsewhere - I highly doubt he can subsist on whatever he earns from writing the column, so it's not as if his rice bowl is broken in any way.

Anonymous said...

Gasp! He's a columnist ... That's even more dangerous, his job requires him to have an opinion!!!

Anonymous said...

See? at least 66% of the country look at things from a rice bowl's perspective!

I would say PAP is overeacting lah.

As long as you keep that rice bowl the same size, and not shrinking like some 1/3 of them, you will rule for eternity.

Anonymous said...

Now it is clear that when the MIW said one people one sinkapore, staying together and move ahead, they also meant one voice, one view and only one direction. Those who don’t would be left behind, or worst, penalized.

PanzerGrenadier said...

Do write in to Reporters Without Borders or even Malaysiakini! It appears that Singaporeans only have a voice in foreign publications and our 140th Main Stream Media does not even reflect the opinions of its citizens on important issues such as cost of living!

Another example of being "Uniquely Singapore"!


Anonymous said...

No climate of fear? Who they kidding? We should all boycott TODAY! Never pick up a copy of the paper again!

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang u tell half truths. Mr Brown is only a Today contributor. It's not as if he lost his job. So the fact that he has 3 children shouldn't have been juxtaposed the way u did it. Shame!

Anonymous said...

This would not have happen if PAP did not politicise everything deem to their advantage.

PAP should not politicise the media.

I mean it is like PAP have politicise everything including NDP.

But why the need to politicise?

Is controlling Singaporeans right down to the bone that important and advantageous to PAP? Nothing more is important to them?

This would not have happen if the media was not politicise. The determination by PAP to control all things is scary.

They want to control but refuse to be responsible or apologetic when things go wrong is even scarier.

All we ordinary people can do is vote Opposition in every election even if the Opposition loses. I cannot think of any other way to make PAP eat humble pie.

Then no one would have the need to feel fear,tension and paranoid in their own homeland.

PAP has to be Opposition for some time for Singapore's culture and climate to change, that is the only way.

My vote is nothing but many votes is something.Please do not forget today's lesson even if PAP loosen control come GE 2011.

Anonymous said...

I guess only PAP is right and citizens are wrong in these KIND of situation. These KIND of situation have repeated many times over the years.

What is more scarier is that PAP took the most popular blogger in Singapore to put on chopping block and use it to show as an example to everyone who wants to blog about politics. (Kai Dao: Open Knife)

It is a very good political move by PAP.It has increased the fear factor by many notches. We are back to the 70s & 80s again.

Most probably after this episode, there will be less activity on political blogs and Singaporeans will be apathetic again which PAP always 'advocates'.

Maybe Mr Brown might even fizzle out.

moomooman said...

Actually... might as well....

Who needs to have a column in a free newspaper anyway when you can have your own blog or website? I bet Brown has more readership per day on his website than people reading his column in Today.

I personally only read his article in TODAY via his website.

Good... no more reasons to read TODAY.

Cheers to Brown.

Anonymous said...

I personally think that it was just a matter of time. This one column was the tipping point. At some point, Mr Brown, couldn't be ignored anymore and something had to be done.

During the election, I was shocked to find out how many people had heard the Mr Brown podcasts. And it wasn't just us, the avid online lurkers. His podcasts reached my web-unsavvy friends. And everyone enjoyed it tremendously. And no matter how you cut it, it had a psychological effect on our perception of how the Gahment dealt with the Gomez issue.

TODAY pulling off the column - I don't think it is a knee-jerk reaction. The editors decided to publish his column in the first place - and that tells us something about the people behind the paper. If he gets pulled, and TODAY says absolutely nothing... they are telling us something...

The Oriental Express said...

Aiyoh yoh yoh! If we don't laugh enough we will all soon go crazy lah! Must take life with a pinch of salt and learn to be a little "xiao"1 Only then can we preserve our sanity lah.

Anonymous said...

Someone here eluded to duress. I think that's one possibility we cannot ignore. I also wonder whether, by villianizing TODAY, we are falling right into their hands... i.e. making the one paper that has been pushing the OB markers for so long hated...

Anonymous said...

Isnt TODAY guilty of politicization of the issue and being partisan by dropping Mr Brown?

I mean Mr Brown gave some private opinions and PAP replied. End of story.

Let the people decide who is right and who is wrong.
Not PAP or Mediacorp.

There is no need to drop Mr Brown and make this issue a political fight between PAP and Anti-PAP.

In fact, it is Mediacorp who is politicising the whole issue. It is Mediacorp who is partisan.

Anonymous said...

I can't leave my comments on Mr Brown's blog, so anybody can help me?

This is what I suggest.....if MB still feels bitter, or in any case anybody also can, find out when is the meet the people session in Hougang, tell the story to LTK, see what he can do to help.

I think it will be good if he brings this up in Parliament.

Anonymous said...

SPH, Today, Media Corp etc all in cahoots lah...

You mean there is a singaporeran here who actually believes we have independent media? Don't dream!

In fact, if you read Bhavani's reply to someone on Brown's website, she had claimed it was the Government's stand.

It's in one of those comments, go read yourself.

But, I think the Government owes us an explanation. Do they or do they not want us to contribute and give feedback?

Seems quite obvious the answer is No, if so, don't wayang about an inclusive society. Don't be a LIAR!

Anonymous said...

The PAP govt perpetuates and actively encourages this climate of fear. It is to their benefit after all. Mr Brown should not feel so discouraged by a few petty sharp words and start running for cover or shut up. If he does so then they would have succeeded in cowing him and reveal the mettle of m'sieur brown.

Anonymous said...

Please suspend all the Pro PAP Journalists as well for being partisan and politicised.

There are train loads of them. Everyday churning out Pro PAP news until like PAP is God.

Paint Opposition like demons.

Please be fair in implementing laws(if any) and policy.

I can name some for you: Chua sisters, Loh Chee Kong, Aaron Low, Nicholas Fang etc.

Please suspend all of them as well.

Anonymous said...

one point tt i dun understand no matter how mani times i read... how in the hell is mr brown distorting the truth? it sounds lyk a over generalised statements...

Anonymous said...

It should be interesting to note this article on Lee Boon Yang's response supposedly just done today...:).