07 July 2006

Straits Times on Mr Brown's Case

ST July 7, 2006
Today paper suspends blogger's column
Move comes after Govt slams mr brown's latest piece on the high cost of living here

THE Today newspaper has suspended a regular column by a well-known blogger known as mr brown, after the Government criticised his latest piece about the high cost of living here.

The suspension of the weekly column takes effect today, said the freesheet's editor-in-chief Mano Sabnani.

'It is the decision of the editors of Today. That is all I have to say,' he said in an e-mail reply to The Straits Times yesterday, four days after the paper published the Government's rebuttal on the column.

The columnist's real name is Mr Lee Kin Mun, a 36-year-old full-time writer.

In his column last Friday, titled 'Singaporeans are fed, up with progress', he commented that increases in taxi fare and electricity tariffs had come after the polls and at a time when a government survey showed a widening income gap.

The Government issued a strong response, which Today published on Monday.

Ms K. Bhavani, press secretary to the Minister of Information, Communications and the Arts (Mica), said Mr Brown's views 'distort the truth' and offered no solutions.

'His piece is calculated to encourage cynicism and despondency, which can only make things worse, not better, for those he professes to sympathise with,' she said.

Ms Bhavani added that opinions widely circulated in a regular column in a serious newspaper should meet higher standards.

Her parting words: '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.'

Mr Lee announced the column's suspension on his own blog, called mrbrown, yesterday morning. The father of three said it has been a 'trying few days' for him and his family.

When contacted, he declined to say more.

But news of the suspension stirred the local blogging community and Mr Lee received more than 400 responses on his site by last night, most of which were critical of Today's decision.

Mr Lee became particularly well-known for producing satirical podcasts during the May 6 General Election. Most notable was his parody of the James Gomez episode with a bak chor mee (minced pork noodle) seller berating a customer.

Political observers such as Mr Tan Tarn How, senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, did not support Today's decision to suspend the column.

'If you believe that pluralism is good, this is an unfortunate case of mass media censorship, or self-censorship,' he said.

He believed it was 'probably intended' by the Government. Otherwise, it would not have attacked the columnist.

Media academic Cherian George said the Government statement is drawing a clear line between alternative niche media and mainstream media.

This is because newspapers have been trying to up their hip quotient by co-opting aspects of online culture, including celebrity bloggers.

'Just because it is tolerated online does not mean it is acceptable to give the same individual the same status in a more public platform,' he said.

MP Penny Low, who is expected to be the new chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Mica, said that anyone can express his views online or offline, but freedom comes with responsibility.

'Obviously, anyone - Government, media or any individual - can offer their counter views or supporting views. And, it is for the concerned party to decide on what they want to do with the view or situation.'

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Anonymous said...

freedom comes with responsibility??? what was irresponsible about mr brown's article?

Anonymous said...

if you are not pro-PAP, you are irresponsible, a hooligan, bad egg, and a partisan player in politics.

Anonymous said...

This is really outragous! Sometimes things happened that make me ask, when can I breathe in on the Air of Democracy in Singapore......

'So Say We Alllllllllll!'

Anonymous said...

I guess only PAP is right and citizens are wrong in these KINDS of situation. These KINDS of situation have repeated many times over the 40 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.

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...

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...

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.

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.

le radical galoisien said...

We need to fund our own newspaper. This is highly ridiculous. I also like how the Straits Times barely covers the other side.

Several logical fallacies: online blogs are often just as public as newspapers. Perhaps you meant "formal", Cherian George?

Also, I note something that I wrote about earlier in one of my own blogs. The use of the capital G and "Government".

"The Government slams", "the Government criticised", "intended by the Government", "Government offer their views".

I mean, "Government's standing". Fine. "Government will release report", "Government will launch this", that's not that bad. But for the Government to have one unanimous opinion?

Something is rotten in the state of Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Maybe my Ang Mo is not powerful so I cannot catch the real meaning.

When reading this :

[Quote]Media academic Cherian George said the Government statement is drawing a clear line between alternative niche media and mainstream media.

This is because newspapers have been trying to up their hip quotient by co-opting aspects of online culture, including celebrity bloggers.

'Just because it is tolerated online does not mean it is acceptable to give the same individual the same status in a more public platform,' he said.[/Quote]

I am under the impression that this Cherian George is with the MICA's views and also the TODAY decision to suspend the column.

But when I read the full article of what this Cherian George have to say regarding the issue at his blog - http://singaporemedia.blogspot.com/, my impression of his view now is totally different.

Anonymous said...

Newspapers only co-opt the dumb, vain, and apolitical bloggers anyway. Just look at the hyped up STOMP. A couple of air heads who happened to be rather well acquainted with English, that's all.

le radical galoisien said...

About Cherian's blog, yes, it's amazing how SPH can twist things, and put words into people's mouths.

simplesandra said...

anon wrote: "freedom comes with responsibility??? what was irresponsible about mr brown's article?"

He was irresponsible to encourage "cynicism and despondency"; he was irresponsible to hurt national morale, and that undermines the nation.

But then, who's responsibility is it then to address the prevailing unhappiness among the people if the government isn't keen to--and won't let others do so either?

Uniquely Singapore, no doubt about that. ;)

Anonymous said...

What hurts national morale is the discovery and realisation (whether or not upon reading Mr. Brown's article) that the government doesn't really care about at least some of its people, not Mr. Brown's reporting; what undermines the nation is the act of doing so by the government, not Mr. Brown's article.

Take, for example, the upgrading thing in elections. "If you vote for us you get upgrading, if not.. we're not sure there will be enough funding.."

"If you vote for us you get upgrading" clearly shows that the government has the capability to do so.

If the people in a constituency deem that upgrading is necessary because upgrading will meet certain needs that are hitherto unfulfilled, eg. lifts that stop at every floor so the elderly/disabled do not have to climb stairs, then is it the responsibility of the govt to provide it to fulfil this need, to provide for the well-being of its citizens. It doesn't break the law, doesn't harm anyone, and is reasonable.

By saying "if not.. we're not sure there will be enough funding.." the govt has pushed away and failed this basic responsibility - to provide for the well-being of its citizens.

Now relating back to national morale and undermining the nation, have I hurt national morale or undermined the nation? No. It is the realisation that the govt has failed the basic responsibility that has hurt morale and such an act of the govt that undermines the nation.

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts, Mr Wang?

"We're all entitled to express our opinions. But we also have to be accountable for our opinions, and be prepared from time to time to stand by them or be called to answer them, and also from time to time be rebutted. If you feel there's 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. We are in search, all of us are in search of solutions. And by working together, by engaging in honest constructive dialogue we can do so. And we want our newspapers to be part of the process. But also be aware that the mainstream media, in particular, you are not an internet chat room."

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Second Minister for Information Communication and The Arts. Reported on News 5 Tonight, 8 July 2006. Found on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDoxh4isuWk

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Oh ... Did he also add:

"And if you do not agree with what I just said, you will be labelled as a Partisan Player in Politics and Sacked From Your Job?"


"If you cannot think of any solution, then you must Keep Quiet and Pretend the Problem Does Not Exist?"